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Helsinki makes waves: autonomous water taxis


Autonomous water taxis are now ferrying passengers to and from some of the many islands of Helsinki's archipelago. The Finnish trial is the world's first commercial service using remotely-controlled vessels, although for the test, a licensed captain has to be aboard.

A shortage of captains for the taxis gave a boost to the idea, which is being operated by Callboats, the company selected by the city for the experiment. Helsinki's transportation officials have been preparing for such a test for several years and gave Callboats a contract last summer.

Rides among the islands with a captain have cost in the range of €50. The city and Callboats estimate that 60-70% of the operating cost goes into captain's salaries, and they hope to reap the savings and lower the price by having a licensed captain responsible for monitoring and intervening if needed for five boats at a time.

Callboats' CEO thinks the scheme might even make the service safer: "It is often forgotten that elevators used to have operators until it was learned that autonomous rides were just as safe. Remote captains have better visibility than those on-site. The Callboats water taxi has a large camera on its roof and the captain has a large screen."

Passengers who need a ride can order the trip through an app, similar to how an Uber is ordered.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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