Row, Row, Row Your Roboat

You have to admire the Dutch. As the Americans take the lead in driver-less cars, they’ve decided to take the lead in something else; driver-less boats. Scientists in Holland’s second city have recently teamed up with a US University to develop self-driving river craft.

The craft will be known as Roboats. (Who said the Dutch don’t have a sense of humour?) and once operational will navigate Amsterdam’s 165 canals, which together cover a total distance of over 60 miles.

The project has received £21 million in funding and the first prototype craft should be in the water by 2017.

As well as carrying goods and people, it’s intended that the roboats will be used in a number of ways, including clearing floating waste. We were particularly intrigued to learn that they’d also be used to dredge out the 12,000 bicycles which are estimated to end up in the canals each year. That’s 1,000 a month or 250 a week! No doubt Halfords would be delighted to see how the Dutch treat their bikes as disposable objects.

The Dutch also have a reputation for pragmatism and so the roboats will also be tasked with ‘making on-demand bridges and stages and gathering data on water quality, air quality and noise’. That’s quite a to do list!

The researchers are hoping that these roboats might be used in other urban areas too, as they’ve noted that many cities are situated on or near rivers.  Although the spokesman for the Dutch Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions noted that “(The problems) are actually greater than for self-driving cars,” he was quoted as saying, “because small craft are both less stable and more difficult to steer than land-based vehicles”. Well you could say that.

We’re left wondering whether the city officials in Venice are looking at this project. Or even the gondoliers?

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