We’ve heard plenty about automated vehicles on the roads and in the sky. But what about the water? One tech startup is exploring that option in the form of self-driving water taxis and they plan to start testing them in England this summer.
New York-based Buffalo Automation has developed AutoMate. It’s an AI system that uses smart technology, cameras, and sensors to steer boats without a human driver on board.
AutoMate can work day and night in all types of weather. The company claims it has the ability to “see in the dark”. Onboard cameras and lidar sensors spot and avoid other boats and floating debris.
Using radar, possible danger can be anticipated from 24 nautical miles away. If the waters get rough, machine learning allows the system to adjust in real-time. Perhaps the most intriguing part of AutoMate is that the tech can be retro-fitted to existing vessels.
AutoMate Could Eventually Steer Cargo Ships
Buffalo Automation plans to trial the autonomous water taxis in the waters of Plymouth, England once the COVID-19 lockdown ends. The company feels that using their driverless tech on the seas could help cut down on maritime accidents along with helping to curb carbon emissions and traffic congestion in cities. The company’s ultimate goal is to use AutoMate on a larger platform such as cargo ships.
“This is to complement our ongoing effort to make cargo ships more automated using AI that can enable future operation from the shore, making the human crew safe from maritime accidents, pandemics and other occupational hazards,” said Chief executive Thiru Vikram.
Initial tests started back in 2015, using a 16ft-long catamaran and in 2018 on a 22ft-long autonomous pleasure boat made by Sea Ray. The upcoming testing in England helps support the US-based company’s plans to expand its sales focus to Europe.