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Forget self-driving cars, Amsterdam is getting self-driving canal boats

The “roboats” will transport people and goods, as well as gather data on pollution and pull up discarded bicycles

The many canals of the "Venice of the North" may soon get some high-tech traffic. The new Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS) is teaming up with researchers from MIT to develop a fleet of self-steering robot boats.

Named roboats, the autonomous watercraft could move people and goods around the city, and even combine into a temporary bridge or two. The boats will also be outfitted with sensors to generate data informing ways to enhance the existing canal system. The boats will be able to observe pollution in the water and clean up litter. They might even be able to pull out some of the thousands of bikes that make their way into the waterways each year.

Almost 25 percent of Amsterdam is covered with water, making the future boats potentially game-changing pieces of transit infrastructure. The first prototypes will hit the waves next year as part of a five-year, $28 million research initiative.