Roboats Roaming Amsterdam Waters

Autonomous transportation is slowly making its way onto our streets as tech giants like Tesla and Google pioneer this technology. In cities where cars and the accompanying infrastructure are uncommon, like Venice or Amsterdam, making different forms of transportation autonomous might seem logical. Like boats, for instance.

Boats roaming Amsterdam’s famous canals are still manually operated, even the busy ferries connecting Amsterdam’s north-side with the rest of the city. A research institute in Amsterdam, AMS for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions, has recently started a program with the goal of developing autonomous boats for the city’s canals. The program, called Roboat, is focused on transportation for people and goods. Showing how developed the technology behind autonomous transportation already is, AMS aims to have these boats ready to go within a year.

AMS, a collaboration between MIT, TU Delft and Wageningen UR among others, has been using Amsterdam as a living lab for urban research for a number of programs. These autonomous boats will also contribute to the institute’s other projects by collecting data on water quality and information on sewerage.

On the other side of Amsterdam, another ambitious boat project has commenced. Artist community Nieuw en Meer is located across a lake on Amsterdam’s south-side and they have contributed to the area’s accessibility by creating a proper forest ferry. It closely resembles a floating garden, including real pear trees! Still in its prototype phase, the artists hope to evolve the project into an autonomous ferry that can pick-up and drop people at any spot along the lake. You will be able to request the ferry by using an app. With nature on board, the ferry should blend in with the natural edges of the lake.

The artists behind the ferry hope to jump on the bandwagon of Roboat, and collaborate on the development of autonomous water transport in Amsterdam and beyond.