If you like the idea of zero-emission water travel, an electric autonomous boat might be the right mode of transportation for you.
Scientists from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the Senseable City Laboratory, along with the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Urban Solutions (AMS Institute) in the Netherlands, have been demonstrating the last of their autonomous navigation trilogy Project: A full-scale, fully autonomous robotic ship ready to be deployed along Amsterdam’s canals.
The “Roboat” has come a long way since the team first prototyped the small boat in an MIT pool in late 2015. Last year, the team released their 2-meter-long half-scale mid-scale model, which demonstrated promising navigation capabilities.
This year, two full-size robotic boats were launched, proving more than a proof-of-concept: The ships can comfortably carry up to five people, collect trash, deliver cargo and provide on-demand infrastructure.
The boat looks futuristic – it’s a sleek combination of black and gray, has two facing-to-face seats, and orange block letters on the sides spell out the manufacturer’s name.
It’s an all-electric boat with a battery the size of a small chest that can run for up to 10 hours and features wireless charging.
MIT’s autonomous electric robot boat filmed in a canal in Amsterdam. The boat can carry up to five people and will collect trash, deliver cargo and provide on-demand infrastructure.
“We now have much higher precision and robustness in perception, navigation and control systems, including new capabilities such as close-range Proximity mode, and improved dynamic positioning so ships can navigate real-world waters.
“Roboat’s control system can adapt to the number of people on board.”
To navigate the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam’s waters at speed, the Roboat required a careful blend of appropriate navigation, perception and control software.
Using GPS, ships autonomously determine a safe route from A to B while constantly scanning the environment to avoid collisions with objects such as bridges, pillars, and other ships.
To autonomously determine its free path and avoid hitting objects, Roboat uses lidar and multiple cameras for a 360-degree view. This set of sensors, known as the “perception suite,” allows Roboat to understand its surroundings.
When Perception picks up an unseen object, such as a canoe, the algorithm marks the item as “unknown.”
When the team later looked at the data collected that day, objects were manually selected and labeled “canoe.”
Control algorithms—similar to those used in self-driving cars—function a bit like a helmsman giving orders to a rower, translating a given path into instructions for the “thrusts” that help the boat move. propeller.
If you thought the ship was a bit futuristic, its latch mechanism is one of its most impressive feats: a small camera on board that will guide it to a dock or other boat when it detects a specific QR code .
“The system allows the Roboat to connect to other boats and docks to form temporary bridges to ease traffic as well as floating stages and plazas,” said Carlo Ratti, professor of practice at MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) and director of the Senseable City Lab. It wasn’t possible in the last iteration.”
The Roboat is also designed to be versatile. The team created a generic “hull” design — the part of the boat that can travel in and on water.
Whereas a normal boat has a unique hull designed for a specific purpose, the Roboat has a generic hull design where the base is the same but the top deck can be switched depending on use.
Fabio Duarte, principal research scientist at DUSP and lead scientist on the project, said: “Because the Roboat can perform missions 24/7, and there is no captain on board, it adds enormous value to the city. Class A autonomy is questionable.
“Like a bridge warden, onshore operators will monitor the Roboat remotely from the control center. One operator can monitor more than 50 Roboat units to ensure smooth operation.”
The next step for Roboat is to trial the technology in the public domain.
“Amsterdam’s historic center is a perfect starting point, with its capillary network of canals facing modern challenges such as mobility and logistics,” said Stephan van Dijk, Director of Innovation at the AMS Institute.
Previous generations of Roboat have been demonstrated at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. The ships will be unveiled in Amsterdam waters on October 28th.
Ratti, Rus, Duarte and Dijk worked on the project with Andrew Whittle, the Edmund K Turner Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT; Dennis Frenchman, a professor in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning; and Ynse Deinema of the AMS Institute .
The Roboat project is a joint collaboration between CSAIL and the AMS Institute. The City of Amsterdam is a project partner.
Candela’s electric boat wins prestigious award
Stockholm-based electric boat maker Candela said its “revolutionary electric boat,” the Candela C-8, has been named European Powerboat of the Year 2023 at the European Powerboat Awards, dubbed the “Oscars of the boat industry”.
Candela said the award recognizes the C-8’s “outstanding performance and industry innovation.”
The Candela C-8 won the electric boat category thanks to its cutting-edge hydrofoil technology, which allows the boat to fly over water using only a fraction of the energy required by conventional boats.
The C-8 travels more than 50 nautical miles at 22 knots, two to three times faster than conventional electric boats and on par with fossil fuel-powered speedboats.
That’s not all – its active hydrofoil system ensures a smooth ride, while its onboard computer automatically adjusts to crosswinds and waves for a more comfortable boating experience.
The real game changer is the C-8’s energy efficiency. The Candela C-8 consumes 80% less energy than conventional vessels, has virtually non-existent wakes and minimal disturbance to marine life.
The innovative technology of Candela C-8 has been widely recognized by the international media, such as Washington post, starand Mirror.
In a recently announced partnership, the Candela will use batteries from electric premium automaker Polestar, which will allow the C-8 to go farther, pushing further beyond the realm of possibility for electric boats.
Mikael Mahlberg, Head of Communications at Candela, said: “We are committed to accelerating the transition to sustainable boating by creating electric boats that are not only more sustainable and environmentally friendly, but also outperform traditional fossil fuel powered boats by revolutionizing the boating industry. … winning the European Powerboat of the Year 2023 award is a great recognition of our work.”