World’s first self-driving electric ferry takes to the water in Stockholm

Want to take a self-driving electric ferry between Stockholm islands? Now you can do just that.

World's first self-driving electric ferry takes to the water in Stockholm
The Zeam's MF Estelle, the world's first commercial autonomous electric passenger ferry, at its inauguration at Norr Mälarstrand in Stockholm. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

The ferry set sail in Stockholm on Thursday, making the Swedish capital the world’s first city to put the technology to use, the company behind it said.

A captain oversees the autonomous craft but doesn’t need to touch the controls, and from Monday, the MF Estelle – named after Sweden’s Princess Estelle – will begin plying short routes between Kungsholmen and Södermalm in Stockholm.

Torghatten CEO Stein Andre Herigstad-Olsen said that eventually, the idea is to make the vessel “fully autonomous”, with no need for an onboard supervisor.

The system already “sees like a captain”, he said.

The boat is fitted with radar, cameras, lidar laser and ultrasonic systems, compiling the data to steer its course, the Norwegian company’s operative chief Erik Nilsson said.

“If a boat changes direction or if there’s a canoe we see it right away in less than a second. We update the course accordingly,” he added.

The first ten-metre boat cost around $1.6 million and will be able to carry up to 30 passengers. A single ticket will cost around $3.

It’s hoped the ferry will encourage Swedes to walk or cycle to work rather than taking the car. The firm wants to increase the number of shuttles in Stockholm and abroad. The ferry initiative was a private and public cooperation and partly EU-funded.

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Swedish game studio channels fandom in ‘Star Wars Outlaw’

From Yoda figurines to Lego stormtrooper helmets, Star Wars is everywhere around the Massive Entertainment video game studio that's about to unveil a hotly anticipated title drawn from George Lucas's iconic franchise.

Swedish game studio channels fandom in 'Star Wars Outlaw'

Hundreds of developers spent years making “Star Wars Outlaws”, a process the Malmö-based studio’s executives say took them from mere fans to craftspeople on the beloved epic.

“We had to take a step back,” said game developer Mathias Karlson, and “make the journey from fandom to being a craftsperson together with Lucasfilm creating something new, a new perspective.”

Anticipation is building ahead of the August 30 release of “Star Wars Outlaws”, an open world game set between the events of the “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”.

“Many of us grew up with Star Wars,” said the studio’s operations director Alf Condelius. “I was 11 years old when I saw the first film and when I got home, I asked myself how I’d lived 11 years without Star Wars.”

“It’s been a fantastic journey almost like reconnecting with childhood”, said Karlson.

The Swedish studios, owned by French giant Ubisoft, partnered up with the Star Wars creator’s Lucasfilm company and began chipping away at the project in 2020.

“We wanted to create a video game in which the player would be the director of their own experience, giving them all the possible options — which vehicle to choose, where to go, which criminal group to pledge allegiance to, everything that makes a bandit or outlaw adventure really come alive”, the studio’s creative director Julian Gerighty told AFP.

While a plethora of games based on the Star Wars franchise already exists, and designers can only work in a specific fictional era, the creators of “Outlaw” promised players extra power and agency.

“We were given a lot of create freedom to come up with new things,” Gerighty said.

Playing a thief

Players will step into the shoes of Kay Vess, who is about to pull off the heist of the century.

Wearing a leather jacket, heavily tattooed, a pistol on her belt, and always accompanied by her trusted galactic animal companion Nix, Kay Vess explores planets and navigates between crime bosses in order to gain her freedom.

The young woman comes from Cantonica, a fictional desert planet known for its casino city, which saga lovers discovered in 2017 in the eighth film, “The Last Jedi”.

“It’s easier to make something new than trying to recreate (the planet) Tatooine as accurately as possible,” Gerighty said.

The sound and aesthetics echo the trilogies of George Lucas, whose own sources of inspiration influenced the designers.

“We make references to Wild West and samurai films,” said Cloé Hammoud, who created the game worlds, adding that creators from 57 countries used “cinematic realism to get closer to the atmosphere (of the films), using for example the same objectives, the same style.”

The game, which lasts about 60 hours, is appropriate for all ages and will be available on PC, PS5 and Xbox X/S.

By AFP’s Camille Bas-Wohlert