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MIT & AMS Partnering On Fleet Of Autonomous Boats For Amsterdam’s Canals

Amsterdam will soon be home to a fleet of autonomous canal boats, if a new collaboration between MIT and the Netherlands’ Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) goes well.

The flagship project of the collaboration between the two organizations (ROBOAT as it’s been dubbed), the autonomous canal boat fleet project will be led by researchers from multiple departments at MIT. The purpose of the project is to “investigate how urban waterways can be used to improve the city’s function and quality of life.”

roboat-mit-senseable-city-amsterdam-netherlands

“This project imagines a fleet of autonomous boats for the transportation of goods and people that can also cooperate to produce temporary floating infrastructure, such as on-demand bridges or stages that can be assembled or disassembled in a matter of hours,” stated Carlo Ratti, professor of the practice of urban technologies in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP).

amsterdam-green-canal

Interestingly, the ROBOAT project will also utilize “environmental sensing to monitor water quality and offer data for assessing and predicting issues related to public health, pollution, and the environment.”

“Water is the bearer of life. By focusing on the water system of the city, ROBOAT can create opportunities for new environmental sensing methods and climate adaptation. This will help secure the city’s quality of life and lasting functionality,” noted Arjan van Timmeren, professor and scientific director at AMS, who also envisions a multitude of possibilities for a network of roboats, from real-time sensing similar to the MIT Underworlds project to retrieving the 12,000 bicycles or cleaning up the floating waste that ends up in the Dutch city’s canals each year.

amsterdam-canal-boat

Plans call for the project’s first autonomous boat prototypes to begin testing in Amsterdam in 2017. The “initial phase” of the project will reportedly last 5 years.

Photos by SENSEable City Lab; Claudio.Ar via Foter.com (CC BY-NC-SA); square_eye via Foter.com (CC BY-NC)

 
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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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