Project Management Institute

Floating a New Idea

Self-Driving Boats Could Make a Splash


Roboats in the channels of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Self-driving boats could start making waves this year.

A five-year, US$27 million project sponsored by the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aims to have a prototype ready some-time this year.

The project’s goal is to create a fleet called Roboats to transport people and goods through Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The boats could also be linked together to form floating platforms or used to monitor air and water quality.

The project team is using lessons learned from self-driving cars, though the boats will face additional complications. “Our sensors need to look not only at the surface but also what is happening under the water,” Carlo Ratti of MIT told CNN. “The algorithms and artificial intelligence are different, but the principles and overall architecture are quite similar.”

Because of the technology’s newness, the project schedule calls for extensive testing.

“We need to have enough learning,” Mr. Ratti told CNN. “Just like with self-driving cars, we want to accumulate many miles to make sure the system is safe and to test it for an extensive period of time.”

Rolls-Royce, meanwhile, has plans for remote-controlled cargo ships. The first ship is planned to launch by 2020. —Karina Corona

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