Are Self-driving Boats in the Future?

Admit it; you have also daydreamed of flying above the traffic and getting to your office in no time. We have all been there. We have been stuck behind a large garbage truck that somehow broke down right at the very moment when we were rushing to go to work. The early-morning rush hour is hell unto itself, but add the fact that trucks and cars can break down or get into massive accidents in the morning? There’s no way you’ll sit in front of your computer by 9 am.

Technology has been kind by gifting people with semi-autonomous cars. There are fully autonomous cars in production right now for testing, but this is not for the market just yet. It has hit a roadblock as safety concerns start to ensue. So what’s the next best thing for inventors and scientists to do? Go from roads to rivers and seas.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently updated its five-year project called the “Roboat.” Essentially, the aim of the researchers is to develop a fleet of autonomous boats for Amsterdam, considered to be a river city in The Netherlands. The most recent addition to the fleet is the Roboat II, a two-meter-long robotic boat that can carry passengers. The research is supported by the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) in the Netherlands.

What’s the Future Like with Robotic Boats?

Imagine the things that a self-driving boat can do. It can be used both for transporting people and goods. It can deliver goods at a much faster rate because, well, there’s no traffic in the seas and rivers. Also, it will allow people to rent a bucks party boat without needing to pay for someone to navigate the boat. With autonomous boats, the sky’s the limit. Whether for business or leisurely use, autonomous boats are going to change the future of water transportation.

self driving boat

How Are “Roboats” Going to Work in the Future?

The Roboats are based on the same algorithm that powers autonomous vehicles such as cars, motorcycles, and golf carts. These are now adapted for water and have been able to transport small items for years. Adding human passengers seemed like a dream only until the Roboat II came into being. As the second iteration of the first robot boat proved that it could travel with its size across the water, there’s now talk of developing another one—a four-meter model that can carry four to six passengers.

But self-driving boats are not only going to carry passengers and goods, but they’re also going to collect data from other boats. These boats can “connect” to other boats in other areas to collect or distribute data. They can also move together in one direction so the “leader” can bring more goods to a specific location. This “collective transport” is based on children’s train sets, which are connected by screws and bolts alone. The only difference with robot trains is that they do not have to be physically linked to each other.

These autonomous boats will decongest road traffic in cities such as Venice and Amsterdam, which have canals and waterways in which these self-driving boats are useful. Since these new boats have improved navigation and capacity, bringing passengers to and from their destinations in the future will not be impossible anymore. Aside from moving tourists from the roads and to the waterways, these boats will also speed up the movement of goods, making the markets more efficient.

Another advantage is that there are fewer traffic rules on the waterways. There could be go-and-stop signs in the future in Venice’s canals, of course, but there will still be less congestion compared to roads. With more spaces in these waterways, there will be fewer reasons for accidents.

Transporting goods and passengers and collecting data are not the only revolutionary tasks of robot boats. In the future, expect to see unmanned submarines and other military water vehicles manning waterways critical to the safety and commerce of nations. The potentials of autonomous vehicles—whether for land or sea—remains untapped but soon enough, researchers will find a way to maximize their usages.

The future of motor vehicles belongs to autonomy. Soon, people will not have time to drive themselves and their children to work and school, respectively. They will need someone else—a robot powered by artificial intelligence—to do these tasks for them. Thankfully, researchers are on their way to developing a fleet of automated vehicles that will make tasks easier for people, businesses, and even the military.

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