Late at night, when there is barely any traffic on the Amsterdam canals, there is a faint buzzing sound. Rectangular boats are on the move, fishing with their tentacles plastic bags, bicycles and other debris from the water. They do it completely autonomously, no one is on board.
More than 80 kilometers of waterways
This is how the city administration of the Dutch metropolis and researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, USA , imagine the future. In 2016, the US scientists put a boat in one of the canals , which found its way autonomously to a programmed destination. The future vessels should be able to do much more than just collect garbage. During the day, they will carry people and cargo on the 165 canals , which are more than 80 kilometers long, also without a captain on board. They occupy a quarter of the urban area. The aim is to relieve the burden on the roads that affect the environment through noise and emissions.
Roboats form to bridges and marketplaces
The boats are equipped with many sensors, a navigation system, cameras, microcontrollers and a transmitting and receiving system. Passengers can order the boats in a central office by naming the departure and arrival points as well as the desired departure time. The boat will be on time to transport the caller and others with similar goals to the desired destination. If a particularly large number of passengers have registered for a particular course, two or more boats will independently join together. This lasts ten seconds if you are one meter away.
When a pedestrian bridge is temporarily needed on one of the canals: The electric boats powered by electric motors (from "robot" and "boat" / boat) form accordingly. Even if a floating stage is needed or a marketplace. They have already proved that the boats are capable: in the swimming pool of the renowned university.
Time, costs and energy are saved
"In the past, canals were used to transport people and goods," says Luis Mateos, a research associate at Daniela Rus, a professor of computer science and artificial intelligence, who developed the Reboat. Today, this task would have largely taken over road vehicles. Now the canals are to be revived as a transport route. For autonomous boats are ideal, says Mateos: "You save time, costs and energy."