Amsterdam’s 60 miles of canals cover about a quarter of the city and have helped its citizens get around since the 17th century. While they’ve matched other trials in self-driving public transportation with their own buses, they aren’t ignoring their historic waterways. Next year, the Dutch city’s Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) will start experimenting with an entire fleet of autonomous boats to haul people and goods while cleaning up the water.
The five-year pilot program, titled Roboat, will be carried out by researchers from MIT, Delft University of Technology (TUD) and Wageningen University and Research (WUR). Obviously, using conventionally-designed boats to transport goods and people will be a major focus. But it will also look into autonomous infrastructure, like floating stages or bridges that can be assembled and disassembled in hours.
Further, the Roboat fleet could track environmental conditions and comb the canals for waste, including the 12,000 bicycles that end up in the water every year. That extends to human waste, too, and testing it in the city’s water systems could tip officials off to outbreaks of disease or other health trends, AMS’ scientific director told The Verge.