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MIT Is Working on an Autonomous Boat Designed to Reduce Traffic

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Traffic is one of the biggest problems major cities around the world have to deal with on a daily basis, and there’s no easy way to put an end to it.

A lot of people are pinning their hopes on autonomous cars, but in all seriousness, we do not see how self-driving cars will be able to solve the issue of traffic.

The best way to do this is to have fewer vehicles on public roads, and it appears the guys and gals at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have a similar thought because they’re working on autonomous boats to carry people from point A to point B.

Fixing traffic with autonomous boats

We understand that this is being worked on by 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).

The two teams have designed a fleet of self-sailing boats that offer precise control and high maneuverability for the future. Now, mass manufacturing of these boats is quite possible due to the fact that they can be built using 3D printers.

Should everything goes according to plan, these driverless boats could ferry passengers and goods around cities, a move that could potentially ease the strain of traffic. Additionally, the team has a dream of having its autonomous boats perform services throughout cities overnight instead of during day when congestion is at its heaviest.

“Imagine shifting some of [the] infrastructure services that usually take place during the day on the road — deliveries, garbage management, waste management — to the middle of the night, on the water, using a fleet of autonomous boats,” says CSAIL Director Daniela Rus, co-author on a paper describing the technology.

Transforming boats?

Probably the most interesting aspect of these driverless boats is the potential ability for them to transform into floating bridges, a platform for food, concert stages, and other structures in mere hours.

There’s not a single boat at the moment that is capable of transforming into usable platforms, so if MIT researchers and scientists can pull this off, then it could become a huge deal around the world.

Since this boat is autonomous, the tech behind it is quite impressive, and more of what we’ve come to expect. It comes packed with a power supply, Wi-Fi antenna, GPS, and a minicomputer and microcontroller, which are all housed in the hull.

When it comes down to the shape, the designers chose to go with the rectangle instead of the traditional catamaran or kayak shapes. The rectangular design allows the boat to move sideways and attach itself to other boats of its kind to form a structure.

It doesn’t end there because researchers added environmental sensors that can monitor water and gain information about human health from the water we come in contact with.

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