In 2020, The Optimist Daily wrote about a fully automated water cab in development by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions. In October 2021, prototype models of the Roboat were launched and are now navigating Amsterdam’s canals.
A floating multitool
The Roboat — yes, pun intended — is a major breakthrough in autonomous floating vessels. It is meant as a dynamic solution to changing life in metropolitan areas with many waterways like Amsterdam. The Roboat is able to transport goods and people around Amsterdam, much like a taxi or delivery service, but it can also provide environmental sensing, picking up important pieces of environmental data on Amsterdam’s canals.
Creating an autonomous boat that was climate friendly was central to the team’s intentions. The 13-foot Roboat, about the size of an average rowboat, is wirelessly charged and can run for about 60 miles between charges. Additionally, a major design feature of the Roboat is for it to pick up garbage littered throughout Amsterdam’s canals.
The future of automated boats?
Developers envision the autonomous boat improving vital infrastructure for Amsterdam. Yes, it will clean up the canals and deposit them in floating dumpsters along the way, but multiple Roboat’s could also assemble and float together to form an impromptu pontoon bridge in areas where a regular bridge might be out of service. The new technology offers a wealth of opportunities for water travel and for metropolitan cities like Amsterdam living on water.
The Roboat’s next model is being developed using experiential data gathered by the prototypes currently paddling through Amsterdam’s waterways.