European training and research network on Autonomous Barges for Smart Inland Shipping
According to the European Commission, passenger transport is projected to increase 42% by 2050, and freight transport up to 60%. Needless to say, this puts an enormous burden on transport networks and our environment. Compared to other modes of transport – which often face congestion and capacity problems – inland waterway transport is characterised by reliability, energy efficiency and a capacity for increased use. More than 37,000 km of waterways connect hundreds of cities and industrial regions in Europe. In the EU, 13 countries share an interconnected waterway network, highlighting the potential for increasing the modal share of inland waterway transport. This will not happen unless we can make inland waterways economically competitive. However, with crew costs accounting for 60% of the total cost, autonomous inland vessels represent an exciting disruptive technology.
AUTOBarge is about seizing an opportunity. Europe’s waterways are a vital resource that we have underused for most of the last century. Now, with the possibility for mass autonomous shipping, these canals and rivers offer a network that we can exploit without damaging the environment to the extent of new roads and aircraft runways. But to be able to do this we need new people with new skills. These innovators must be experts in remote control, monitoring, smart logistics, regulatory aspects, and many more areas associated with the complexity of inland shipping. The 15 early-stage researchers recruited to AUTObarge will begin this transport revolution.