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A first step towards realising Autonomous Waterbuses

Driverless, electrical waterbuses cruising busy waterways of urban areas might be reality in several Norwegian cities within a matter of years.

The interest for so-called autonomous waterbuses in Norway signal potential success for revitalising this ancient means of transportation in a new Smart-mobility guise. At a national seminar for waterbuses hosted by Nordic Edge and partners, six Norwegian cities presented their initiatives. The cities of Arendal, Haugesund, Kristiansund, Stavanger, Trondheim and Tønsberg have all identified routes ideal for transporting people and bicycles short distances in autonomous ferries.

"The ambition is to tie the city centre closer together and to allow for efficient, sustainable and comfortable public transportation," project manager for the City Impact Districts (CID) in Stavanger, Kristin Gustavsen told media present at the seminar.

"By learning from each other and finding points of collaboration, each individual city increases its chances of implementing these initiatives," she added.

The Authorities

Her views were echoed by the Norwegian Maritime Authority who called for cities to work together and involve the necessary regulatory bodies at an early stage.

"Regardless of your geographical location most of the challenges of implementing autonomous boats will be universal," Jack-Arild Andersen from the Norwegian Maritime Authorities said.

"The earlier you involve the authorities the more efficient the process will be", he said, and added that this is new territory that will involve altering current regulations. But he did stress that the authorities would be as forward-leaning and accommodating as possible.

Public Transportation

Regional mobility company in the Stavanger-region, Kolumbus is onboard. Project manager for their waterbus initiative, Lars Erik Tveit hopes autonomous ferries will be an integrated part of the company’s public transportation package in the coming years.

Waterbuses will make cities more attractive, Urban planner at Link Architecture Hanna Maria van Zijp concluded as she rounded off the inspiring and fruitful day.

The seminar held in Stavanger on January 17th was the first of two events. The next seminar will be held on the University of South-Eastern Norway’s testing grounds in Horten in May.


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