This electric autonomous ferry is the future of emission-free public water transportation!

Mobility and transportation are rapidly changing to become greener in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. From electric cars to sustainable yachts, talented teams are working in every transport category to provide a better alternative. One such project is the CAPTN Vaiaro which proposes two autonomous electric ferry concepts that offer a glimpse into the future of the industry. The team of designers developed CAPTN under the coordination of Kiel University in Germany because the concept was designed keeping the port city of Kiel in mind.

The city of Kiel is quickly turning into a bustling hub which is posing a challenge for city planners who want to make the public transportation network more efficient while still being aligned with the city’s climate goals. They are anticipating a spike in the ferry traffic between the west and east shores of Kiel Fjord and therefore need a solution that can keep up with the growth while also running on clean energy. Those two conditions are fulfilled by CAPTN Vaiaro, which stands for Clean Autonomous Public Transport Network, as it is specifically designed to integrate the ferry crossing into the city’s clean mobility network. The two different elements – the ‘floating platform’ and the ‘passage’ – allow for rapid carriage of buses and cyclists/pedestrians across the Fjord.

Using electric propulsion, the ferries make public transportation quiet and emission-free with electricity from renewable sources. The autonomous operation also will increase the frequency of service significantly. The ferry is designed to be available on-demand at all times, and operation is possible around the clock, every day, with integrated smart tech. The design addresses the entire mobility chain, specifically connections between bus and ferry services, to increase efficiency.

CAPTN’s team goes beyond the designers and includes several scientists and working groups from Kiel University, Kiel University of Applied Sciences, Muthesius University of Fine Arts & Design, as well as representatives from politics, administration, and industry. It also was one of the winners of the iF Design Talent Award 2020 and the jury described this project as one that takes a highly creative and innovative approach to public transport, imagining how a car-free city can nonetheless span two sides of a major waterway. CAPTN’s motto is ‘making innovations visible,’ and it shows!

Designer: Simeon Ortmüller, Vincent Steinhart-Besser, Yigang Shen, Jingyue Chen, and Tobias Gehrke

This electric scooter cleverly one ups Lime and Bird with a better city-friendly design!

As we return back to our lives outside quarantine, there are more vehicles on the road than before as people are scared to take the risk of using public transport again. Safety must always come first, but while we adjust to the new normal we must find sustainable alternatives for short distance commutes – at least in already crowded cities – that don’t make the air quality worse when we are battling a disease that hinders our breathing. For someone who would just take a subway for two stops to run an errand we need another solution than risky public transport or expensive electric cars. That’s where ridesharing with e-scooters comes in, a concept crafted for that ‘last mile’ commute when it is too far to walk but too short to take your car out for.

While this isnt a new thing in the world of Bird and Lime, Glide’s design has one key feature that puts it above its competitors – it is foldable! Why is this so important? You must have seen the rideshare scooters strewn all over the sidewalk causing clutter but with Glide, you have to dock it when its folded so it keeps the surrounding clean and hazard-free (I have tripped over three myself!). The design concept is focused on making the experience better for users and also for non-users – it relieves the contractors of having to collect scooters strewn all across the city to charge and put back, its modified design lets you dock your phone to navigate so you never have to use one hand to steer again, and adds details that makes it possible to easily carry your bags. Along with the body, the handlebars also fold down making it one compact, lightweight, sleek tube. The deck where you stand has been extended in Glide scooters to make space for your bag and secure it with a retractable strap. It also has a a shoulder strap which makes it portable unlike other risharing e-scooters.

Another detail that makes Glide a better choice is how it is docked when not in use. The e-scooter folds up into a cylinder and clasps around the rack which locks it in place as well as charges it. To unlock the e-scooter, the user simply has to tap their card or phone on the electronic ring. Glide comes with a fully integrated smart app that also lets you see where you can pick your e-scooter from in augmented reality. The design is also looking to seamlessly blend using these scooters in combination with public transport when it is safe again, so you can use your train or bus pass to also use your scooters – this system can reduce overall costs as well as encourage more people to choose an emission-free commute. Integration of Glide with a city’s public transport system will also transform the product from a ‘last mile’ solution to a more distance-friendly option. I think my favorite part is still the clutter-free sidewalks that I wont trip on!

Designer: Ruairi Phelan


This electric, self-driving, smart ferry is the Tesla of public transport boats!

Traffic is only increasing every day in cities and if they are located in a coastal area then using waterways is one of the most efficient ways to cut down on road congestion. Along with managing the flow of vehicles on land, the climate crisis has accelerated the need for smart, climate-friendly mobility solutions worldwide. Zeabuz, a Norwegian company, has stepped up to the need of the hour and will be launching a self-driving ferry next year!

The ferry will carry 12 passengers and will operate like an elevator where all you have to do is press a button to summon it. Zeabuz’s zero-emission ferry was first developed by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in 2018 and the 2021 launch shows Norway’s commitment to developing climate-conscious transport systems. This ferry will be autonomous, “Autonomy fits like a glove with electric vehicles. This enables better control, optimal operation, safety, and maintenance. Our autonomy solution is world-leading and can enable self-driving ferries that safely manoeuver among other boats, dock to the quay by themselves and handle passengers safely,” says Asgeir J. Sørensen, director of NTNU’s research center on autonomous maritime operations, NTNU AMOS. Apart from wirelessly charging at docks, it is safe to assume that solar panels will be the way to go with a backup battery for winter months when the sunshine is not enough in Norway. Many major cities can replicate this solution to fit their water channels and maybe even boost tourism while reducing the vehicle count on the roads during rush hours.

As we try to build a sustainable future, boats needed a technological upgrade to give the people a greener alternative to road transport. The Zeabuz ferry reduces operation costs which also makes it economical – and on that note, riding this ferry will be free in Trondheim which will encourage more people to adopt emission-free commutes. The electric ferry will operate along the canal that connects the port and the city center of Trondheim and will charge itself when docked. This cuts the travel time from 15 mins to 1 minute as passengers won’t need to walk between the two locations. Keeping the urban audience in mind, the ferry also has the capacity to transport passenger bicycles. Water transport was popular before the invention of cars, and while it largely only benefits coastal communities, they are also the most densely populated which puts them first in line for emission-free transport solutions. Electric self-driving boats like these can truly reduce the traffic in big cities and improve air quality as well as reduce noise pollution levels.

Designers: Zeabuz and NTNU

Be socially distant and still use public transport with this driverless tram!

Is anyone else feeling trapped because they are scared to use public transport? I don’t have a car because I have lived in a city all my life, so I could get everywhere using public transport but now with the pandemic going on I have been only going to places that are at a walkable distance and that really limits me. A design studio understood this problem and took it upon themselves to come up with an innovative solution for a crowded city like Hong kong – how can you make people comfortable with public transport again?

Answer: Island! This is a conceptual a double-decker driverless tram designed for the city of Hong Kong to be used in the post-pandemic era. Island is an exemplary blend of industrial design, transportation design, public design, urban mobility, and sustainability. Using public transport is crucial to keep pollution levels low especially when the virus going around attacks your respiratory system first. Making sure that public transport facilitates social distancing was also given the utmost importance during the design process. “We wanted to reimagine public transport in the post-COVID era from a prevention perspective. Especially in the densely populated city of Hong Kong, where social distancing is hard to achieve. The idea of designing a tram is no coincidence: trams are one of the city’s landmarks and the tramways celebrate their 115th anniversary this year. The concept of social distancing, which limits people’s freedom to move and interact became the design challenge and focal point for the new concept,” says the design team as they explained the process and challenges.

The driverless technology optimizes the interior space of the tram, making it easier to manage travel times and increase onboard safety. The design was named Island as the interior of the tram hosts large circular benches that let passengers practice social distancing and sit facing outwards in a radial pattern. The charcoal black walls and wooden floors add a luxurious touch that makes you want to use the public tram and feel comfortable while doing so. Its exterior aesthetic is inspired by the urban landscape of the iconic city that is known for its tall glass buildings. The curved windows and domed top allow plenty of natural light inside during the day while giving an unobstructed glimpse of the views at night while large vertical LEDs provide visibility in all weather conditions. It includes a retractable connector for rapid charging at tram stops. Even the stops have been created to replicate the minimal design with sleek and clean lines. It has been kept open on both sides to allow passengers to maintain more distance, move freely, and have natural ventilation for a healthier environment. Let’s rethink public spaces and use design to make them great (and safe) again!

Designer: Ponti Design Studio

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