MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) is ready to deploy the autonomous passenger boat it’s been developing over the past six years. The vehicle, called the Roboat, has been through multiple iterations — just last year, the lab tested a version that can carry two passengers. This year, Roboat’s creators are launching its full-scale version, which can carry up to five passengers, collect waste and deliver goods, in Amsterdam.
The current Roboat has futuristic looks with its black and grey design and two seats facing each other. It’s fully electric with 10 hours of battery life on a single charge and has wireless charging capabilities. MIT CSAIL Director Daniela Rus says it’s more precise and has more robust perception, navigation and control systems that its predecessors. It also comes with new features, including close proximity approach mode that makes docking to a port or connecting to another boat easier, as well as better dynamic positioning that will help it better navigate real-world waters.
The vehicle’s autonomous driving technology is similar to ones used by self-driving cars, according to CSAIL, and operates by using GPS to decide on a safe route from point A to point B. Roboat also uses LIDAR and several cameras to enable a 360-degree view that gives it a way to determine its path and avoid crashing into obstacles. The vehicle can operate on its own round-the-clock, but an onshore operator will monitor it remotely from a control center: A single operator will be able to monitor up to 50 Roboat units.
The new Roboats will debut on October 28th in the waters of Amsterdam. Stephan van Dijk, Director of Innovation at Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions, said: “The historic centre of Amsterdam is the perfect place to start, with its capillary network of canals suffering from contemporary challenges, such as mobility and logistics.”
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