Amsterdam Plans Fleet of Autonomous Boats
Driverless "roboats" will also clean up canals as they transport people and cargo.
Rapid advances in driverless cars have been making all the headlines in recent months. So why not take the next logical step and start planning for autonomous boats?
Why not, indeed. That's the plan in Amsterdam, where engineers hope to deploy a fleet of autonomous canal boats for ferrying people and cargo around the city. The Netherlands' capital is an ideal place to monkey around with the concept. More than 100 total kilometers of water canals run through the city, which is essentially 100-plus separate islands connected by 1,500 or so bridges.
WATCH VIDEO: Robots Are Stealing Your Job
The Roboat Project -- see what they did there? -- is a research collaboration between MIT and other European universities, along with the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS). The idea is to develop a logistics platform for various types of watercraft that would serve different functions in and around the city. In fact, according to the press materials, the agencies intend to "use the city as a living laboratory and test bed" for a number of progressive urban development projects.
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.
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.
SEE PHOTOS: Tasty Tech Eye Candy
style="text-align: left;">Rising 86 feet up the wall of the lobby of the Wells Fargo Bank Building in Denver, Colo., are five high-resolution LED displays. The eight-story screens are part of a digital installation developed by NYC-based ESI Design. The firm didn't want to fill the cavernous glass atrium with one huge screen and so they decided to split it into five separate panels to accentuate the verticality of the lobby. The screens display video inspired by the nature surrounding Denver. Credit: ESI Design
style="text-align: left;"> Using a high-speed camera and volunteers standing against a black backdrop, scientists recorded sneezes. Their goal was to better understand what happens when a person sneezes. The video, which was recorded at 1000 frames per second, showed that the motion and particle distribution of sneezes are more complicated than previously known.
For example, the particles in cloud range in size and travel through the air in swirls and eddies. The biggest surprise was the discovery that the finest droplets stayed suspended in the air for up to several minutes and could travel as far as several feet, which shows the potential for a sick person to infect other people in the room. Credit: New England Journal of Medicine (2016). DOI: 10.1056/NEJMicm1501197
style="text-align: left;">Amsterdam-based DUS Architects 3D-printed this small, 86-sq-ft cabin to demonstrate the potential of 3-D printing in the construction industry. The Urban Cabin was printed over a period of about four weeks and is made from a bio-plastic that can be shredded and reused on another 3D-printed project. Credit: Ossip
style="text-align: left;">Scientists at the University of Zurich have made a remarkable breakthrough in Alzheimer's research. They found that an antibody called Aducanumab targets beta-amyloid plaques known to build up in the brain 10 to 15 years before symptoms of the disease begin to show. In tests, patients who received the highest dose of the antibody had almost no beta-amyloid plaque. Wider-spread clinical trials are now underway. Credit: University of Zurich/Nature
style="text-align: left;">China, already known for its artificial island building, is planning a man-made tourism hub for the country's Haikou Bay. This week they announced that the New York City-based architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro won the competition to design the hub, called the South Sea Pearl Eco-Island.
style="text-align: left;">Amtrak's Acela Express trains, which run between Boston, New York City and Washington D.C., are getting an upgrade. A sleek new exterior will enclose improved interior comforts, including more comfortable seating and better Wi-Fi and charging ports. The new trains will be capable of faster speeds, too. After track improvements, the train could top out at 186 mph, a decent improvement over the current 150 mph. Credit: Alstom SA, 2016; Meconopsis by Trimaran
style="text-align: left;">Twelve unattractive and unused electricity pylons in Stockholm's Norra Djurgården national park are getting a makeover. Swedish architect Anders Berensson is proposing converting at least two of the pylons into "picnic towers" that would offer people views of the park and nearby city. Although Berensson's plans for the so-called Power Towers are conceptual at the moment, the firm is investigating way to fund then and make them a reality. Credit: Anders Berensson Architects
style="text-align: left;">Self-driving cars are not just for the streets. Corn-rows may be seeing autonomous tractors, too. UK-based CNH Industrial's NH Drive is a self-driving tractor chock full of software, LiDar, cameras, GPS and other equipment that allows a farmer to plot the most efficient course through a field, all from the comfort of his office. Credit: CNH Industrial
style="text-align: left;">At the 11th World Wheelie Championship held in Yorkshire, UK, Egbert Van Popta set a new world record for riding a wheelie one kilometer at 213 mph, beating the previous record of 210 mph, set by Gary Rothwell the year before. Credit: Phil Evans
style="text-align: left;"> One of the fat-tired Batpod motorcycles that appeared in the Batman movies "The Dark Knight" and "The Dark Knight Rises" is up for auction on September 27. The UK-based Prop Store, a movie-lover's paraphernalia company, is handling the deal. Expect to plunk down $80,000 to $106,000 for the machine. Credit: Prop Store