By Otilia Drăgan

Robotaxis are not news anymore, with several self-driving car services all over the world. But transferring this concept to water-based transportation is something to talk about. This pioneering ferry isn’t just an autonomous vessel for transportation, but it’s also solar-powered and available for ridesharing.

Startups are really taking a leading role in this new automotive wave based on electrically-powered, autonomous vehicles. Buffalo Automation might not sound familiar, but this American company has already achieved a lot since 2015, when it was founded. Specializing in AI solution for autonomous transport and navigation, it has developed a predictive marine navigation system, AutoMate, which is adapted for large commercial ships.

In 2020, Buffalo Automation launched a new product line based on the Greycraft autonomous navigation technology. Greycraft made its debut in Knoxville, Tennessee, and it’s the concept behind this first European commercial robotaxi service.

Netherlands is where the “Vaar met Ferry” begins its career. It was subsidized by the Dutch provincial government and it provides a great connection from Warmond-Kagerzoom and Leiderdorp to the Koudenhoorn recreation area. This alternative will be especially beneficial for pedestrians and cyclists in the area, just in time for summer, when more residents are out and about.

You wouldn’t able to tell by its modest appearance, but this ferry is a pioneer in many ways. It’s mainly powered by solar panels, with the battery mainly acting as a reserve for a longer range, in case of emergency or when operating in low-light conditions. It’s autonomous, of course, and the first of its kind that can be hailed with a ridesharing app. 

For now, this innovative ferry operates as a pilot service that will be free of cost for residents, until October 2021. If it turns out to be successful, it could lead to implementing the same type of robotaxi-ferry in other cities as well, all throughout Europe.