By Laurie Foti

We wrote about Buffalo Automation in November of 2019 after the New York-based tech startup was selected as one of the 19 semi-finalists to compete for the $3 million investments by New York accelerator GENIUS NY. A lot of exciting things have happened since them.

Last week, Buffalo Automation unveiled the world’s first fully autonomous, AI-driven, passenger-carrying robotaxi in Knoxville, Tennessee next week, opening the door for cities nationwide to adopt this alternative form of transportation. The official launch of the fully operational Greycraft Water Taxi is targeted for early 2021 and will initially be cost-free for residents pending proper transportation permits.

Greycraft is the only solar-powered, autonomous vessel currently capable of carrying passengers and traversing busy waterways. Using the newly released Mayday app, it can also be hailed much like Lyft or Uber. Buffalo Automation has made the possibility of using autonomous water taxis as a safe, reliable, environmentally friendly means of transport, a reality.

Founded in 2015 Thiru Vikram, Buffalo Automation is an AI startup that provides autonomous systems for commercial ships, recreational boats, ports, and waterways. Buffalo Automation’s flagship product, Automate, is a predictive boat navigation system that guides large commercial ships.

The system works day and night, utilizing AI, neural networks, and thermal imaging technologies to identify even the smallest obstructions and safety issues – providing critical warnings and assistance in safely navigating around them. Automate has already been adopted by multiple commercial ships operating on the US Great Lakes and has garnered global customer interest.

Buffalo Automation has also amassed the largest continually learning maritime AI database of its kind – taking advanced mobility and technology to a new level – on the water. The Buffalo Automation team continues to transform the fossil-fuel reliant maritime industry through advanced AI for autonomous transport and navigation, as well as solar-powered electrification of marine vessels.

As individuals try to protect themselves during COVID-19, a driverless water taxi de-densifies the number of people on the craft, protecting everyone. Buffalo Automation believes that AI-enabled boating shouldn’t be geared toward the top-tiered elite, it should bring future tech to the masses, democratizing boating regardless of a person’s level of boating expertise.

Knoxville, Tennessee Mayor Indya Kincannon, a champion of green technology, is enthusiastic about the potential benefits of Buffalo Automation’s river navigation innovation. Tennessee boasts a beautiful, complex network of blueways, she says, and none are more important than the Tennessee River, whose headwaters are close to downtown Knoxville.

“The Greycraft test run is exciting and historic,” Mayor Kincannon said. “We applaud companies exploring and investing in green technologies. As we move forward together, we need everyone’s contributions – government, businesses, transit systems, and individuals – to reduce greenhouse emissions. Recreation and transportation on blueways are a significant part of life here in Tennessee. A safer, solar-powered, autonomous water taxi service is a great example of a big idea and a new business model with the potential to become a part of the long-term environmental solution across the nation.