US tech firm launches commercial robotaxi service in Europe

The robotaxi service is the first of its kind on many fronts. It is an autonomous electric ferry that is solar-powered and can be hailed with a ridesharing app, but most notably, it is commercially deployed – currently carrying passengers in dense European traffic. The launch has made the alternative possibility of using shared access autonomous electric vehicles as an affordable and environmentally friendly means of transport, a reality.

The ferry service dubbed “Vaar met Ferry” is subsidized by the Dutch provincial government and will be cost-free for residents until October 2021. Warmond-Kagerzoom, Leiderdorp and the nearby golf course now have a better connection, especially for bicyclists and pedestrians, to the Koudenhoorn recreation area.

“From its inception, Buffalo Automation’s goals have been to improve safety and decarbonize the water through the use of our technology,” explains CEO Thiru Vikram. “This project was made possible because of like-minded local community and business leaders who are open to exploring alternative transport models. This historic launch will solidify our commitment to providing the people of South Holland a safe, clean energy means of transportation that protects their numerous blueways and natural resources. Launching this electric robotaxi service, which is powered by our Greycraft technology, on a European river has been an exciting undertaking for our operating field teams. We’re happy that Dutch officials as well as the folks at FMN and NGS share our vision and look forward to more planned launches across the pond.”

Municipality of Teylingen, South Holland’s Alderman Heleen Hooij, a champion of green technology, is enthusiastic about the benefits of this ferry. “It is special that the municipality of Teylingen has the scoop: a self-propelled ferry!” she says. “Nice that we can use this innovative ferry service, planned and implemented by one of our residents, this summer. And fantastic that students from Delft on de Groote Sloot may find a learning ground for their projects. I am very proud that this ferry is going to transfer pedestrians and cyclists as a pilot project. If it turns out that the ferry is a success, it can contribute to sustainable access between the recreational areas of Kagerzoom and Koudenhoorn.”

Shared access to the self-driving electric ferry is a core concept in Buffalo Automation’s commitment to ensure that boating is not always geared toward the top-tiered elite – it brings the yachting lifestyle to the masses, democratizing transportation regardless of a person’s level of navigation expertise or financial ability to own a vehicle, while safeguarding the environment.

Anne Koning, Provincial Executive of South Holland: “Because of the measures to contain the coronavirus, we are increasingly going out in our own country. As a result, the recreational pressure in our green areas has increased considerably. With a financial grant from the province of South Holland, we are realizing an extra connection to the island of Koudenhoorn. This is how we hope for a better spread of visitors, and we will ensure that recreants can also be safe this summer enjoy this beautiful area.”

More About Buffalo Automation

Founded in 2015, Buffalo Automation has amassed the largest continually self-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.

Buffalo Automation’s flagship product, AutoMate, is a predictive marine 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 American Great Lakes and has new pilots around the world.

The AutoMate system had been made available in a consumer boating ADAS version called Pegasus in 2019, designed for smaller recreational boats. Pegasus provides a comprehensive navigation and safety system that safeguards both new and experienced boaters. While working seamlessly with today’s gas-powered engines, the forward-thinking Pegasus technology has been adapted to provide a fully autonomous boating experience in this new product line called Greycraft that combines electrification, renewable energy, and modular design, exemplified by this ferry service in the Netherlands.

Launched first in America at Knoxville, Tennessee last year, Greycraft autonomous navigation technology is designed to be powered primarily by solar panels with battery capacity reserved only for range-extension, low-light operation or emergencies. Greycrafts are also designed to remain operating on the water for several years after assembly and deployment with no maintenance, since they require neither fuel nor manpower to operate.

Recently releasing a new product based on the company’s existing AI technology portfolio, Buffalo Automation unvieled the Mayday app, which enables the public to experiment with AI firsthand. Using the app, people can point their phones at their surroundings, and Mayday will identify objects in view. While the app is already programmed to detect watercraft — sounding an alert to boaters if they get too close to another boat or object in the water — Mayday can detect anything once trained to do so. In the case of this water robotaxi, the app can also be used to hail a Greycraft, much like users call for a Lyft or Uber, paving the way for future autonomous ferry and water taxi companies, such as the Future Mobility Network, to service the public.

SOURCE Buffalo Automation

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