The technology surrounding autonomous vehicles has grown so much in recent years, leading to autonomous cars, pickups, vans, semi-trucks, and more. So why shouldn’t boats be included?
MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) has been working with the AMS (Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions) for 5 years to create a small boat that can do just that. They have created what they call “Roboat”. It uses LiDAR, GPS, and inertial sensors to achieve autonomous operation to deliver passengers and cargo.
The boats are modular and can tag together to create additional cargo support or form various shapes that allow them to complete a specific task. Let it be side by side, lined up in a row, or grouped into a large rectangular formation.
Their objective is to deliver a working solution that can be used in all sorts of scenarios, covering everything from travel to entertainment. To carry things from one point to another, to instantly form a bridge for people or vehicles to cross a channel with (there are some interesting military ideas that come to mind there), provide a place for a band to play in the middle of a lake while it moves around, and more. The options are pretty endless as such a technology can be used in so many ways by so many groups.
Of course, this wouldn’t be the first autonomous boat out there. SpaceX has been using autonomous boats to act as landing pads for their rockets and accessories for some time now. However, this offers a path for everyone else to get their hands on it. This means that employees for Disney’s Jungle Cruise might be out of a job soon (given, their boats are already on a track). It could also make it much easier for them to prepare and initiate their complex firework displays above water bodies inside their parks. Imagine the gains within search and rescue that could be made with this.
It isn’t that far away before you’ll see options like this begin to pop up as MIT and AMS aren’t the only ones working on something like this. For now though, at least for MIT, they are still ironing out data that has been collected thus far that allows them to improve upon the accuracy of the technology. You can read more about it here.