Watch MIT launch its first autonomous ‘Roboat’ in Amsterdam’s canals

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The latest version of Amsterdam’s famous waterways of 2016 is here. It was built to transport people and goods. Now it is being developed into a full-scale, self-navigating watercraft and is ready to go.

The Roboat was developed to make fluid infrastructure that could extend shorelines or even form floating bridges. This has stuck in the DNA of ships as ships have become smarter and more agile, and in 2019 have become able to moor together and organize themselves into different arrangements.

Last year, the team from the Computing and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute) revealed a half-scale version measuring two meters (6 , 5 feet) long and finally large enough to carry passengers. The model was tested for three hours continuously, and it turned out to be a success.

The Roboat III is four meters (13 feet) long, can accommodate five passengers, and is controlled by the same navigation technology involving LiDAR, GPS, and a suite of cameras to create a 360-degree picture of its surroundings. The algorithm records the data collected during execution and then uses it to give instructions.

“We now have increased precision and robustness in perception, navigation and control systems, including new functions, such as close-in approach mode for locking capabilities and improved dynamic positioning, so that the boat can navigate in the waters of the real world, ”explains Daniela Rus, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and director of CSAIL. “Roboat’s control system adapts to the number of people in the boat.

This model can accommodate people as well as goods and can also be used to collect waste or form a floating platform for infrastructure purposes.

“As Roboat can carry out its tasks 24/7, and without a skipper on board, this adds great value for a city”, explains Fabio Duarte, principal researcher at DUSP and scientific manager of the project. “However, for security reasons, one can wonder if reaching a level of autonomy A is desirable. Much like a bridge guard, a shore operator will monitor Roboat remotely from a control center. An operator can monitor more than 50 Roboat units, ensuring smooth operations.

“Amsterdam’s historic center is the ideal starting point, with its capillary network of canals suffering from contemporary challenges, such as mobility and logistics,” says Stephan van Dijk, director of innovation at the AMS Institute.


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