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Autonomous boats can target and latch onto each other


The city of Amsterdam envisions a future where fleets of autonomous boats cruise its many canals to transport goods and people, collect trash, or self-assemble into floating stages and bridges. To further that vision, MIT researchers have given new capabilities to their fleet of robotic boats -- which are being developed as part of an ongoing project -- that lets them target and clasp onto each other, and keep trying if they fail. About a quarter of Amsterdam's surface area is water, with 165 canals winding alongside busy city streets. Several years ago, MIT and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute) teamed up on the "Roboat" project. The idea is to build a fleet of autonomous robotic boats -- rectangular hulls equipped with sensors, thrusters, microcontrollers, GPS modules, cameras, and other hardware -- that provides intelligent mobility on water to relieve congestion in the city's busy streets.

MIT CSAIL's Roboat II is an autonomous platform large enough to carry human passengers


Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) say they've created an autonomous river vessel -- Roboat II -- that's capable of carrying passengers across fast-moving bodies of water. It's the latest addition to a fleet of autonomous boats developed by CSAIL, MIT Senseable City Lab, and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) over the last five years. As MIT's Rob Matheson explained in a recent blog post, the Roboats -- rectangular hulls packing sensors, thrusters, microcontrollers, cameras, and other hardware -- emerged from the ongoing project. The goal is to create robot fleets that can ferry people and goods through Amsterdam's 160 canals and self-assemble into bridges to help reduce pedestrian congestion. Roboat II measures 2 meters long (6 feet) and can carry up to six passengers at a time.

MIT's autonomous boats take to the water in Amsterdam


MIT has upgraded its autonomous boat fleet with the Roboat II, a vehicle sailing down the canals of Amsterdam that is able to carry passengers. On Monday, MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the Senseable City Lab published an update on the project, which aims to develop maritime autonomy applications if not for the sea -- for now -- at least for smart cities and more urban environments. Five years after creating the first prototype, CSAIL and Senseable have added a new boat to the fleet -- the Roboat II. The two-meter boat utilizes four propellers to move down waterways and is equipped with similar algorithms, sensors, and mapping technology to autonomous land vehicles. The algorithms map waterways and plot paths between a series of "goal points" according to the team.

Autonomous boats could be your next ride


Alongside the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions, the team also created navigation and control algorithms to update the communication and collaboration among the boats. "Roboat II navigates autonomously using algorithms similar to those used by self-driving cars, but now adapted for water," says MIT Professor Daniela Rus, a senior author on a new paper about Roboat and the director of CSAIL. "We're developing fleets of Roboats that can deliver people and goods, and connect with other Roboats to form a range of autonomous platforms to enable water activities." Self-driving boats have been able to transport small items for years, but adding human passengers has felt somewhat intangible due to the current size of the vessels. Roboat II is the "half-scale" boat in the growing body of work, and joins the previously developed quarter-scale Roboat, which is 1 meter long.

MIT tests autonomous 'Roboat' that can carry two passengers


We've heard plenty about the potential of autonomous vehicles in recent years, but MIT is thinking about different forms of self-driving transportation. For the last five years, MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the Senseable City Lab have been working on a fleet of autonomous boats to deploy in Amsterdam. Last year, we saw the autonomous "roboats" that could assemble themselves into a series of floating structures for various uses, and today CSAIL is unveiling the "Roboat II." What makes this one particularly notable is that it's the first that can carry passengers. The boat is pretty small, only two meters long, and can carry two passengers through the canals of Amsterdam.