The Edge

This self-driving 3D-printed boat could help ease traffic in cities with waterways

MIT designed a fleet of autonomous boats that could help reduce car traffic
MIT designed a fleet of autonomous boats that could help ease car traffic

Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the Senseable City Lab in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) have designed a fleet of 3D-printed autonomous boats. In the future, the driverless boats could eventually taxi people and deliver goods.

The four-by-two meter boat can be printed in about 60 hours and is equipped with a power supply, Wi-Fi, GPS and a microcontroller. Its rectangular shape allows it to move sideways and attach itself to other boats.

The goal is to eventually program the boats to self-assemble into larger structures, like floating docks and concert stages. MIT says they can also be equipped to monitor a city's water quality.

It's part of the "Roboat" project, a collaboration between the MIT Senseable City Lab and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS). In 2016, a prototype was tested within Amsterdam's canal system to provide research on how urban waterways can be used more efficiently.

Researchers say the next step is to develop controllers that adapt to different water currents and conditions.