Look Out for Self-Driving Boats in Amsterdam Starting 2017

We have already seen prototypes of self-driving cars. This time around, the city of Amsterdam is pushing for self-driving boats.

The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute), together with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Delft University of Technology (TUD) and Wageningen University and Research (WUR), is set to embark on a €25 million project called “Roboat.”

“Imagine a fleet of autonomous boats for the transportation of goods and people,” Carlo Ratti, professor at MIT and principal investigator in the Roboat program, in a statement said.

The Roboat program, which is set to run for five years, is more than self-driving boats, according to Professor Arjan van Timmeren, AMS Institute’s Scientific Director. He said the project will also investigate how to use Roboats as portable infrastructure, for data gathering and for moving people and goods.

The AMS Institute’s Scientific Director added:

We could for instance do further research on underwater robots that can detect diseases at an early stage or use Roboats to rid the canals from floating waste and find a more efficient way to handle the 12,000 bicycles that end up in the city’s canals each year.

Why do we need a Roboat?

According to AMS, 80% of the world’s economic output is produced around deltas, riverbanks and coasts; while 60% of the world’s population lives around these bodies of water.


The Roboat project is aimed at improving mobility and quality of water in metropolitan areas, AMS said.

Amsterdam is a perfect place for developing Roboat, according to AMS, as nearly 25% of the city is covered by water.

AMS said they will be testing various sizes and shapes of Roboats. The first prototype of Roboats will be released in 2017.

Amsterdam’s 165 canals – with a combined length of 100 kilometers – are a major draw for recreation and tourism.

“To have the world’s most prominent scientists work on solutions with autonomous boats in this way is unprecedented, and most fitting for a city where water and technology have been linked for ages,” Amsterdam vice mayor Kajsa Ollongren said in a statement.

Images from AMS Institute.