MIT’s autonomous “Roboats” find their own way down Amsterdam’s canals

Image courtesy of MIT
A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute) is working with the City of Amsterdam to create the “Roboat”, a full-scale, fully autonomous robotic boat that travels along the city’s canals.

The metal Roboat can carry up to five passengers, collect waste and deliver goods.

The vehicle uses GPS and autonomously decides on a safe route from A to B, and scans its surroundings with a 360° “lidar” to avoid collisions. It finds docking stations with the help of cameras, and can read QR codes located on other boats.

The MIT team behind the Roboat says it has a “perception kit” that can analyse and flag previously unknown obstacles in its path.

Daniela Rus, MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science, said: “We now have higher precision and robustness in the perception, navigation and control systems, including new functions, such as a close-proximity approach mode for latching capabilities, and improved dynamic positioning, so the boat can navigate real-world waters.”

Carlo Ratti, a professor at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies, added: “The system allows Roboat to connect to other boats and to the docking station, to form temporary bridges to alleviate traffic, as well as forming stages and squares, which wasn’t possible with the last iteration.”

Image courtesy of MIT

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  1. Clever and very practical; quintessentially Dutch! Being modular also opens up to scaling to a 2×2 or 2×3 configuration equivalent size – and still get through and turn in most canals!

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