A zero-emissions, self-driving ferry is a pioneering transport initiative by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim. Now, engineers are developing an autonomous electric ferry that may be summoned like an elevator. Read more about the self-driving electric ferries in Norway.
Also in the capital of Norway, one of the largest players in the retail segment, another vessel construction project is partially funded by the Norwegian Government as part of an overall plan for a significant reduction of emissions in Norwegian waters. Asko Management AS is in charge of developing 67 meters long ferries designed solely for the transport of semitrailers across the Oslo Fjord.
Expected to be launched nest year
In Trondheim, the small, autonomous ferry is expected to be launched next year and will be operated by the company Zeabuz. Currently being developed by a team at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the full-scale version of the non-cable-guided “Autoferry” will carry at least 12 passengers, along with their bicycles or baby strollers. If it’s not already on their side of the canal, those passengers will be able to call it over simply by pressing a button.
The vessels in Oslo will be managed by Massterly AS, which is the first company in the world that has been set up to undertake the technical management and the operation of autonomous vessels. Massterly is a joint venture between Kongsberg which is a significant player in the world of autonomous vessels and the shipping company Wilhelmsen. The ferries in Oslo will not be self-driving though.
An alternative to a proposed bridge
The Trondheim ferry was developed in 2018 as an alternative to a proposed bridge across Trondheim’s harbor canal. The prototype was a hit and NTNU commercialized its research, forming Zeabuz in 2019. It’s part of a larger movement exploring how to use waterways for more sustainable transport.
The ferry will self-navigate its way over to the opposite bank, guided by an onboard GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System). It will also use four integrated sensors – a radar unit, an infrared camera, an optical camera and a LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) unit – to detect and avoid other watercraft. Sensors located on the shore will provide additional assistance, by wirelessly transmitting data to the ferry.
Full-electric transport ferries
In Oslo, the autonomous vessels will be delivered as full-electric transport ferries, with the main propulsion power coming from a 500kW electric motor coupled to an azimuthing stern drive. This with be supplied with electrical power from an 1846kWh capacity battery bank. An electrically powered Schottel Pump Jet will be fitted at the bow to act both as emergency propulsion and as a bow thruster to improve manoeuvrability. The operating speed will be 10 knots and it is anticipated that this mode of trailer transport will save over 2 million road miles per year.
“Historically, that’s how we traveled,” says Susanna Hall Kihl, an expert in waterborne transport and founder of Vattenbussen – Sweden, a research and advocacy organization for urban waterways. She is highlighting that most major cities were built on or near water. “Reviving underused waterways to relieve road congestion is an easy solution,” she says, “as it requires minimal infrastructure compared to other transport systems”.
Feature image (on top): Zeabuz
Self-driving Electric Ferries in Norway, written by Tor Kjolberg