AMS Roboat Q&A

What is Roboat?
Roboat is the world’s first major research program on autonomous floating systems that focusses on moving people and goods, portable infrastructure and data gathering. Roboat aims to design and deploy the world’s first fleet of autonomous boats in the city of Amsterdam.

Who is taking part in Roboat?
Working on the project is a consortium of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and Wageningen University and Research (WUR). Waternet, City of Amsterdam and City of Boston are supportive of the program.

Is Roboat the boat version of a self-steering car?
Yes and no, self-steering is just one of the things we’ll be researching with Roboat. We’ll also be investigating how to use Roboats for portable infrastructure, data gathering and moving people and goods.

What would be an examples of portable infrastructure?
Cities experience high and low peaks of people over time, for instance when a major event takes place, rush hours starts or a during a festival. Roboat will explore the possibilities of floating infrastructures like bridges that move to the place it is needed most, extending the shore with moveable objects, or make a pop-up stage in the middle of a body of water.

What kind of data will Roboat gather?
Roboat aims to gather data on environmental aspects like water quality, air quality and noise, but also aims to explore ways to detect diseases at an early stage in cities, find more efficient ways to clear the canals from floating waste or new approach to dredging out the 12,000 bicycles a year which end up in the Dutch city’s canals.

Why do we need Roboat?
Roboat aims to improve transportation, mobility and water quality in the metropolitan areas. With 80 percent of global economic output generated around coasts, riverbanks, and deltas and 60 percent of the world population living in these areas, researchers anticipate that outcomes from the Roboat program could become a reference for other urban areas around the world. Roboat could be a source for international entrepreneurial initiatives and start-ups in which autonomy enters the marine world and by monitoring the urban water’s chemical quality – precious insights for assessment and predictions on ecological quality can be made.

What do you mean by Amsterdam as living lab?
Amsterdam as living lab means that we’ll be testing the Roboats in Amsterdam’s waters.

What is the project budget and schedule?
The program has a budget of 25 million euros. The initial program will last five years.

When will we see the first Roboats in Amsterdam’s waters?
The first prototypes Roboats are expected to be tested in Amsterdam in 2017.

Where is Roboat located?
Roboat’s test will be conducted in Amsterdam. Other research will take place in Amsterdam (NL), Cambridge (USA), Delft (NL) and Wageningen (NL).

Why is Roboat being developed in Amsterdam?
With nearly one quarter of the city covered by water, Amsterdam is an ideal place for developing Roboat. The canal system was once the key functional urban infrastructure of the city and today still plays a major role in recreation and tourism. Amsterdam’s waters – including bridges, canals, and the IJ river and its docks – offer plenty of opportunity to help solve current issues with transportation, mobility, and water quality.

What is the relation between AMS Institute and MIT?
Together with Wageningen University & Reseach and Delft University of Technology, MIT is one of AMS Institute’s founding academic partners. More about AMS’ set up can be found here.

Which researchers are involved in Roboat?
Professor Carlo Ratti, Director of the MIT Senseable City Lab;
Professor Dennis Frenchman, Professor of Urban Design and Planning at MIT;
Professor Daniela Rus, Director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory;
Professor Andrew Whittle, Professor of Civil Engineering at MIT;
Doctor Stephan van Dijk, Program Manager Research at AMS Institute;
Professor Arjan van Timmeren, Scientific Director AMS Institute and Professor Environmental Technology & Design, TU Delft.

From 2017 on, AMS Institute will coordinate the involvement of another 12 researchers from TUD and WUR with relevant expertise connected to the Roboat research.

What will the Roboats look like?
We’ll be testing different kinds of sizes and shapes of Roboats to figure out what works best. Keep an eye out for Roboats in Amsterdam starting 2017.

Other questions? Please contact