Driverless transportation and the future of bridge design

Driverless ferry
A half-scale version of the driverless ferry. Credit: The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NNTU

According to the Daily Telegraph, Norway has become the first country in the world to design a driverless ferry. The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NNTU) is conducting trials of a half-scale ferry that shuttles people and their bicycles across the Trondheim fjord, a journey of 320 feet that takes only 60 seconds, and saves pedestrians a 15-minute walk. Referred to as the “autoferry,” the small electric boat is fully autonomous, self-propelled, and fitted with sensors to avoid kayakers and other river traffic. A full-scale ferry is currently being tested with hopes of it launching next year.

Passengers are able to call for the ferry by pressing a button. Designers say it’s as safe and easy as taking an elevator, although they admit they’re still working on cyber security because of fears that it could be hacked.

Several Norwegian communities have expressed interest in the autonomous ferries, which would help link communities currently cut off because of a lack of bridges. Autonomous ferries cost less since they are unmanned, and the eventual hope is that they would end the need for expensive bridges over rivers and canals.

CBS News previously reported that marine innovators are working on automated ferry boats for Amsterdam canals, cargo ships that can steer themselves through Norwegian fjords, and remote-controlled ships to carry containers across the Atlantic and Pacific.

The development of driverless cars has impacted the design of roads and highways. How will the advent of driverless ferries impact the future need for bridges? Engineers should be monitoring the progress of autonomous ferries as they consider the future direction of their firms.

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