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Self-Navigating Autonomous Water Taxis to Launch in South Korea

autonomous water taxi
Busan, Korea plans to launch an autonomous, self-navigating water taxi service in 2025 (Avikus)

Published Jul 21, 2023 12:21 PM by The Maritime Executive

The autonomous navigation startup company Avikus, a division of South Korea’s HD Hyundai, signed an agreement to launch autonomous water taxis operating in Busan. A partnership between the City of Busan, Korea Marine Consulting and Project Management Company, and Avikus, they report the service will launch in 2025.

The plan calls for four six-seat water taxis operating in a nearly nine-mile radius in the downtown area of Busan. The service will be based on Avikus’ technology known as NeuBoat and NeuBoat Dock, which is being developed for the leisure boat segment. The company has also demonstrated an autonomous navigation system for commercial merchant ships known as HiNas and from that also developed the version for recreational boats which it expects to start marketing later this year.

“NeuBoat will utilize artificial intelligence technology to provide real-time guidance for water taxis, optimizing their routes and automatically avoiding obstacles, thus significantly enhancing the safety and convenience of the water taxi service,” said Lim Do-hyeong, CEO of Avikus. “Through continuous collaboration with Busan City, we aim to verify the safety and viability of autonomous water taxis and expand their presence.”

Busan City has been working to develop the concept for an eco-friendly water taxi service since 2021 in collaboration with KMCP, a domestic eco-friendly leisure boat manufacturer. It is part of the city’s efforts to enhance its image as environmentally friendly and increase its tourism business.
 
Avikus will supply specialized self-navigating solutions for water taxis, while KMCP will provide an eco-friendly maritime taxi platform and assume the role of operating the water taxi service. Busan City will offer administrative support necessary for the operation of the maritime taxi service, as well as promotional and marketing activities to boost the activation of the water taxis.

The company has also conducted the first demonstrations of its self-navigating systems which it seeks to incorporate into merchant ships. Avikus led a demonstration last year during a Pacific crossing of a gas carrier. The company reports it has received interest in the application of the technology aboard more than 300 ships.

The first autonomous ferry was recently dedicated in Stockholm. The 39-foot vessel was designed to carry up to 24 passengers on a 15-minute trip across the harbor. The navigation system consists of radar and a LiDAR system as well as an infrared camera, ultrasonic sensors to aid with docking, and GPS for positioning.