We’ve heard plenty about the potential of autonomous vehicles in recent years, but MIT is thinking about different forms of self-driving transportation. For the last five years, MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the Senseable City Lab have been working on a fleet of autonomous boats to deploy in Amsterdam. Last year, we saw the autonomous “roboats” that could assemble themselves into a series of floating structures for various uses, and today CSAIL is unveiling the “Roboat II.” What makes this one particularly notable is that it’s the first that can carry passengers.
The boat is pretty small, only two meters long, and can carry two passengers through the canals of Amsterdam. Roboat II has four propellors so it can move in any direction, and also includes LiDAR, GPS and inertial sensors to help it navigate. While an individual boat looks rather tiny, they’re modular, like the original Roboat. This means they can self-assemble into a larger vessel that’s commanded by a main “leader” boat.