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Semi-automated driving technology makes its way to boats with Volvo Penta

CES 2021

Docking a boat can be quite the challenge for a novice helmsman. Even those with experience can run into difficult with the currents, wind, obstacles, and other factors. Volvo Penta is working to help with semi-automated docking technology.

Called Assisted Docking System, it debuts at CES and it is something that will be commercially available. It integrates a custom software layer with GPS-based Dynamic Position System and proprietary Inboard Performance System for a complete interface at the helm.

“When we launched our joystick technology in 2006, the maneuvering and control functionality it brought to leisure boating shook up the marine industry — delivering game-changing innovation is in our DNA,” explains Anders Thorin, Product Manager Electronics at Volvo Penta.

The main features of the new assist system includes moving in straight lines, standing still, slow maneuvering, rotating around a fixed point, micro repositioning, and side push. All of these are performed with limited human interaction.

“Assisted Docking is a hybrid between automated docking and manual docking,” says Ida Sparrefors, Director of Autonomous Solutions and New Business Models at Volvo Penta. “Even though, in some ways, it would have been easier to implement full automation, the beauty of this system is that it gives the captain enhanced control. With our team of experts — from software developers to test drivers — we have made it behave intuitively in all situations, so that anyone can feel like a seasoned captain.”

Volvo Penta is quick to point out that this is not a fully-automated system. It must have a human in control, at the helm, at all times. Just like the assisted driving systems found in vehicles.

Making life easier for operators is part of automation, and whether it’s for boats or for automobiles, it’s cool tech that will pave the way for a more autonomous future.

Written by Chad Kirchner
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