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Adam Danyal
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This Self-Driving Cargo and Passenger Boat Could be the Future of Urban Waterways Transportation

This is “Roboat,” an autonomous boat that could provide cargo and passenger transport, autonomous garbage collection, and on-demand delivery goods service, or form floating bridges and stages, and add a multitude of functions that would improve urban infrastructure and waterways. Remotely steered, Roboat has orange propellers and four thrusters that are powered by an electric battery. Its speed is about 4mph and can operate for 12-24 hours, depending on the battery type and cargo load.

Roboat is a futuristic concept presented by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), which teamed up with Stephan van Dijk, the director of innovation at the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions. This collaboration introduced Roboat prototypes in Amsterdam to navigate the Dutch capital’s 60 miles of canals and carry out tasks, such as garbage collection and transporting passengers.

This autonomous technology has been especially relevant in high-traffic ports where there is an abundance of vessels and ships accompanied by many quays and piers. According to Dijk, by introducing autonomous systems you can improve safety and efficiency with “a 24/7 operations approach.”

Roboat is equipped with sensors and obstacle avoidance, in which its computer is constantly compensating for external factors that alter the boat’s direction, such as wind, current, and waves. This info is evaluated and integrated by the mission control, which allows the boat to configure/reconfigure its mission and translate it to a certain path. Its navigation then pinpoints the exact location and direction.

Additionally, Roboat has automated docking. This key feature allows the boat to autonomously steer and latch itself to the appropriate docking stations. The latching system is comprised of two opposed pairs of robotic arms. When deployed, these robotic arms securely grab onto the stationary poles of a dock or the sides of another Roboat. As soon as it’s successfully latched, mechanical brakes lock the arms in position without drawing further power. While Roboat is not yet widespread, the ultimate goal would be to establish a fleet of self-driving boats that can carry 4 to 6 passengers, using comparable technology used in autonomous cars.

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