Research on Fully Automated Rhine Ferry


Ferry operators, industrial partners and RWTH collaborate in AKOON project


Autonomous systems are one of the key topics of future mobility. Researchers from the Institute of Automatic Control at RWTH Aachen University are now working together with the industrial companies J.M. Voith and in-innovative navigation GmbH and the operator Rheinfähre Maul on a fully automated Rhine ferry.

The project, which is titled “Automated and Coordinated Navigation of Inland Ferries” or AKOON for short, receives funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy within the “Next Generation Maritime Technologies” program. The aim is to fully automate the entire crossing process, including maneuvers such as mooring and departing from the dock, and taking into account regular shipping traffic and current weather conditions.

The Rhein ferry "Horst", which operates near Mainz between the towns of Oestrich-Winkel and Ingelheim, will serve as a test ferry. This ferry connection is an indispensable part of the region's transport infrastructure: More than 600,000 people and 300,000 vehicles are transported annually. The crossing route is demanding: The area is characterized by narrow passages, sandbanks and strong currents, and low water levels make the work of the ferry skippers more difficult. Automated operation is expected to be highly useful under such conditions.

Moreover, intelligent route planning and optimized control of the drive units – four Voith-Schneider propellers – are to reduce fuel consumption and increase safety. Route planning requires comprehensive information about the current traffic situation on the Rhine, which could be provided by a combination of different sensors.