Norwegian Zeabuz on creating the world’s first and, so far, only autonomous urban ferry
According to entrepreneur Erik Dyrkoren, the first commercial service is less than one year away. He also believes that there is a good chance that we’ll see them during the Olympic Games in Paris 2024.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
May 11, 2022
After living and working around the world and in several industries, Norwegian serial robotics entrepreneur Erik Dyrkoren is back in his hometown Trondheim, building both companies and a family. However, his passion and curiosity for the ocean remains and the latest company to take part in his vast experience is Zeabuz, founded by a world-leading research community on maritime autonomy at NTNU in Trondheim.
— Our milliAmpere 2 is the world’s first and, so far, only autonomous urban ferry and acts as our living lab for both technology and passenger handling. We’re now commercializing the core technology and will provide ’Autonomy as a Service’ to mobility operators.
And how is it going?
— The milliAmpere 2 is the pilot and the stepping-stone for entering the market. We use that experience and technology to prepare for market launch of several products. Most importantly is the launch of our first commercial service in Q2 2023 together with Torghatten (a ferry company, Ed’s note). In addition, we are working on how to retrofit existing ferries with parts of our autonomy stack and deliver value through optimization.
When and where do you think that the first fully autonomous ferry will ’set sail’?
— We believe Zeabuz will be the first to launch an autonomous ferry service. After one year of service, for which we will have a safety operator on board due to regulatory boundaries, we will move that operator on shore — supervising several vessels and, hence, saving substantial operating costs. Creating shortcuts across waterways with small ferries is probably the safest and simplest mobility operation to convert to autonomous operation. Regulatory organizations also embrace our approach due to its simplicity and intrinsically safe operational design, Dyrkoren explains.
You recently presented the ferry for VNF (Voies navigables de France, the French navigation authority) and the Paris Olympic organisation during an event in Trondheim. Tell us more.
— We presented Zeabuz, our technology stack, simulators used for training and verifying the autonomy, as well as the milliAmpere 2 prototype which we rode back and forth across the canal here in Trondheim. The French delegation was very impressed with what they saw and confirmed what we believe: that Zeabuz is offering the most complete technology package for autonomous urban ferries in the world.
One of the reasons for this event was to explore whether you will be able to deliver autonomous ferries to the Olympics in 2024. Will you?
— Yes, there is a good chance that we’ll deliver the autonomy technology to the Paris Olympics ferries. The public call for tender will be issued this spring and we are preparing and partnering up with yards and operators to be able to provide a turn-key solution in a consortium, says Dyrkoren, adding,
— It is very interesting to see the sudden interest in autonomous urban ferries over the last 6 months. We are receiving inquiries from all over the world and believe the timing for our technology is just about excellent.