Amsterdam floats bridge made from autonomous boats

The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) has teamed with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to create roundAround: a fleet of autonomous boats that would run between the island of Kattenburg to the east of Amsterdam and the city centre.

The boats would move in a continuous circle across the canal, picking up and dropping off passengers via a charging station. Currently, walkers have to make a 1km detour to make the crossing.

The boats would be equipped with cameras and Lidar technology powered by artificial intelligence, which would improve safety and efficiency. The "Roboats" could also be used to transport rubbish or construction materials, alleviating road congestion.

Carlo Ratti, architect and MIT professor, said: "RoundAround is one of the first proposed applications of Roboat, our research in collaboration with AMS Institute.

"The Roboats will autonomously respond to and learn from the dynamics of this Amsterdam waterway. As they operate, the system will become increasingly more intelligent and well-equipped to be implemented in other parts of the city and other cities worldwide."

Stephan van Dijk, AMS’ head of research, said: "Bridging this waterway truly challenges urban engineers, as it’s an important fixed mast route for bigger boats. This makes it challenging to design an accessible bridge across this canal.

"With Roboat as a dynamic infrastructure we can potentially connect the two areas and use roundAround as a living lab to develop on-site experience on how autonomous boats behave on the Amsterdam canals."

Images courtesy of AMS/MIT

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