Amsterdam gets world’s first fleet of autonomous boats. While the first prototypes of self-driving cars are taking to the road, Amsterdam ushers in a new chapter in the international push for autonomous vehicles. Roboat is the world’s first large-scale research that explores and tests the rich set of possibilities for autonomous systems on water. “Imagine a fleet of autonomous boats for the transportation of goods and people,” says Carlo Ratti, Professor at MIT and principal investigator in the Roboat-program, “but also think of dynamic and temporary floating infrastructure like on-demand bridges and stages, that can be assembled or disassembled in a matter of hours.”
In a collaboration with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute) has started the world’s first major research program on autonomous floating vessels in metropolitan areas. Roboat is a joint five-year project, conducted by researchers from MIT, Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and Wageningen University and Research (WUR). The five-year program has a budget of €25 million and is set in Amsterdam.
The team developed design solutions for three areas of life in Amsterdam: waste, food, and transportation. Waste solutions focus on how to use autonomous, water-based trash collection to alleviate the current problems in central Amsterdam from the accumulation of rubbish on the streets and the noise pollution and congestion caused by truck collection. In the area of food solutions, researchers proposed a system of floating markets that could supplement the robust network of markets already present in Amsterdam, highlighting the potential to tap into the greater region’s food production. The research also discussed the options for water-based distribution to cafés, restaurants, and bars. Transport solutions show how autonomous water taxis might help reduce congestion for both commuters and visitors.
“Roboat offers enormous possibilities,” says Professor Arjan van Timmeren, AMS Institute’s Scientific Director, “we’re also exploring environmental sensing, where Roboat can help assess water quality. We could, for instance, do further research on underwater robots that can detect diseases at an early stage.”
The focus at the first stage of the Roboat project is on waste collection and environmental sensing.
The research is set in Amsterdam, yet aims to become a reference study for many urban areas around the globe. “It is a fantastic opportunity for Amsterdam,” says the city’s alderman and vice mayor Kajsa Ollongren. “To have the world’s most prominent scientists work on solutions with autonomous boats in this way is unprecedented, and most fitting for a city where water and technology have been linked for ages.”
Roboat: research on world’s first autonomous fleet for moving people, moving goods, dynamic infrastructure and environmental sensing.
>>Read more about the possible use cases for Roboat.
The next prototype testing of Roboat will take place in the waters of Amsterdam Oktober 2018. Sign up for our newsletter to stay updated!
Roboat is a research program by AMS Institute. Working on the project is a consortium of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Delft University of Technology and Wageningen University and Research. Waternet, City of Amsterdam and City of Boston are supportive of the program.
Fábio Duarte, Research Lead
Lenna Johnsen, Urban analysis
Pietro Leoni, Design concept
Ruxian Ma, Web & Visualization
Luis Mateos, Robotics
Shinkyu Park, Robotics
Wei Wang, Robotics
Stephan van Dijk, Research Program manager
Arjan van Timmeren, Scientific Director
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