Helsinki firm pilots self-driving ferry

Service marketed as more efficient and environmentally friendly option for planners

The Finnish pilot programme comes shortly after New York’s mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a plan to create a fleet of ferry boats at a cost of $325 million to help offset congestion in the city.

The Finnish pilot programme comes shortly after New York’s mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a plan to create a fleet of ferry boats at a cost of $325 million to help offset congestion in the city.

 

We’ve all heard of plans by companies to introduce autonomously-driven cars on to our roads and some firms are also busy trialling driverless trucks. Now one Finnish firm has unveiled plans to create a self-driving ferry.

Reaktor, a Helsinki-based digital design and engineering company, is piloting an autonomous ferry service as a more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative for city planners.

The company claims cities could dramatically reduce costs by introducing ferries to transport people, rather than continuing to invest in other types of transport infrastructure.

The pilot programme comes shortly after New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, recently announced a plan to create a fleet of ferry boats at a cost of $325 million to help offset congestion in the city.

Juha-Matti Liukkonen, Reaktor’s director of space and new technologies, said waterways had gone largely unchanged for decades and were therefore ripe for a digital makeover.

He said that by reducing traffic levels and using electricity instead of fossil fuels, driverless ferries could also lower the quantity of emissions produced.

“Big cities are struggling with traffic and running out of space; only so many bridges, tunnels and railways can be built in urban areas. By replacing some big infrastructure projects, water transit could save cities a lot of money, time and disruption for residents and businesses,” said Mr Liukkonen.

The company said retrofitting existing vessels was possible but that, as each boat is unique, doing this would not be scalable. It is therefore focused on a new design to better optimise ferries.

“Making a system so ferries navigate and plan routes without a human factor is more complex but very much doable with the current technology. In a few years, people could go island-hopping with this kind of vessel, creating new possibilities for tourism in addition to making a commute more enjoyable,” Mr Liukkonen added.

Reaktor’s pilot is due to commence in Finland early next year and the company is also in negotiation with authorities in New York, Amsterdam, Dubai and Tokyo about running tests in these cities.

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