Volvo Penta’s skipper-assist tech offers crash-free boat docking

Even the most skilled boat skipper can have problems docking if conditions are windy and the current strong.

So they’re bound to welcome Volvo Penta’s clever technology that takes partial control of a vessel to help it glide effortlessly into a docking space.

Volvo Penta — the Swedish automaker’s maritime subsidiary — has been working on its Assisted Docking technology for several years, with Digital Trends covering an early version of it in 2018.

Now the system is ready for primetime, with the company showing it off at its virtual booth at this week’s all-digital CES technology show.

The Assisted Docking system combines Volvo Penta’s GPS-based Dynamic Positioning System with engine electronics, propulsion systems and sensors, and advanced navigation processing power that lets a skipper gently ease their boat into a space without fear of crashing into the dockside, or worse, into someone else’s vessel.

The system allows the boat to move in a straight line, stand still, rotate around a fixed point, and push to one side for sideways docking. To use it, you simply move the boat’s joystick to communicate your desired direction and speed.

But here’s the clever part. As the boat proceeds, the docking system’s cutting-edge software takes into account external forces such as wind and current, prompting the technology to make the appropriate compensations to ensure the boat continues to follow the skipper’s desired course.

“It does this by calculating drive angles and thrust, then acts on the drift and moves the boat back to its intended course,” Volvo Penta said in a release, adding that the boat’s docking keeps its course by constantly fine-tuning the steering angles and thrust.

“Assisted Docking is a hybrid between automated docking and manual docking,” Volvo Penta’s Ida Sparrefors said in a release. “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’s Assisted Docking system will be available from this spring for installation on new boat models or as an upgradeable option for Volvo Penta motor yachts between 35 feet and 120 feet long. It can also be retrofitted to some vessels. Pricing is yet to be revealed.

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