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Autonomous Roboat transports people and trash through Amsterdam's canals

Following five years of research, testing and redesigns, a fully electric, autonomous water taxi is now ready to be deployed in the canals of Amsterdam. Roboat can carry up to five people or 1500 kg in cargo, and can go for 10 hours before needing to be charged, which it does wirelessly at a dock without human intervention.

Developed by MIT and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions, Roboat evolved from a desire to find new uses for the city's canal infrastructure and to lighten the load on its historic streets and bridges. Its hull was designed to be multifunctional: the top deck can be swapped to change a Roboat's use from passenger transport to carrying cargo.

While human operators currently still monitor the boats, the end goal is to take people out of the loop and have Roboats function with full autonomy.

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Amsterdam is urgently seeking ways to protect its historic bridges and quay walls from heavy vehicles like freight and garbage trucks. One of the trials underway involves household waste collection: floating containers are docked along quay walls, people throw their trash in, and when the containers are full, Roboats are automatically summoned to transport trash to a central waste facility.

On water — unlike on land — vehicles move at a slow pace of 6 to 7 km per hour. That might be too leisurely for ferrying people, but it's fine for cargo. Those slow speeds also vastly lower the risk and danger of collisions compared to self-driving cars. So if your company operates in cities with a high density of waterways, the future is now. Time to figure out how to take some of your transportation needs off roads and onto emission-free, self-driving boats?

Related: Gaming tech maker Razer redesigns ocean cleaning Clearbot

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Spotted by: Thomas Klaffke and Sophie Caro

Image: © MIT/AMS Institute