The autonomous boat initiative is the flagship project for the group, and will include the waterborne equivalent of self-driving cars and buses that use the canals as roadways. The group also plans to develop networked water vehicles that work together to produce temporary floating infrastructure, such as on-demand bridges or waterfront performance stages.
In addition to transportation and infrastructure, the roboats will also carry onboard sensors and monitoring equipment to continually assess water quality. The boats could potentially provide an early-warning system for problems related to public health, pollution and the environment.
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There's even talk of developing dedicated cleaner boats that would skim the canals to remove debris and floating waste on the surface of the canals. If you've ever lived near an urban waterway, you already know how useful something like that could be. Assuming everything works out, the city may deploy more specialized water 'bots that reach down and pluck out trash from the bottom of the canals -- including the more than 12,000 (!) bicycles that end up down there each year.
The first prototypes of autonomous boats are expected to be tested in the city by 2017, with the initial phase planned for a five-year run. Make your Amsterdam reservations now.
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