Self-Docking Boats: What's Next?

By Mark Corke

Volvo Penta is about to make the hardest part of boating a whole lot easier.

Volvo Penta reveals first self-docking yacht conceptVolvo Penta's pioneering self-docking technology is the next technological innovation.

When Volvo Penta launched its Inboard Performance System (IPS) back in 2006 it was real game changer. Pod drives coupled to a joystick control made maneuvering a boat around the docks a breeze and made even neophytes look like a pro. If you thought technology couldn't make boating any easier, you probably haven't yet heard about Volvo's new self-docking boats. Yes, that's right, the ability for boats to park themselves into an assigned slip.

Called "Easy Connect," sensors on the dock and boat communicate with one another and by wirelessly controlling the boat's IPS drives, parking the boat effortlessly into the slip regardless of wind, current, or other forces acting on the boat.

You really have to see this to believe it.

Prototypes of Volvo Penta's self-docking technology are currently undergoing development trials, and it's anticipated the system will become available to consumers sometime in 2020. Installation cost of the system has yet to be announced, so stay tuned.

The automated docking capability partly comes from the onboard electronic vessel-control system (EVC), which computes steering and drive calculations in relation to the boat's actual position and four sensors sited on the intended berth. It's expected that boats already fitted with Volvo IPS drives will be able to be upgraded to the self-docking technology, which should please owners of older boats who are interested in having the latest technology aboard.

Sensors on the berth help guide the yacht safely into its docking positionSensors on the berth help guide the yacht safely into its docking position.

"Docking is one of the most challenging boat-handling maneuvers. Getting it wrong can be embarrassing, expensive, and precarious," says Björn Ingemanson, President of Volvo Penta. "Our IPS system has already taken great strides in making docking easier, and this new self-docking feature takes that process one important stage further."

Volvo notes that while the system effectively drives the boat in and out of the dock for you, the skipper should still be at the helm ready to take control of the boat if necessary.

The system was recently demonstrated to the public for the first time during the Gothenburg stopover of the Volvo Ocean race when a large yacht fitted with IPS drives docked between a couple of the round-the-world yachts. 

— Published: August 2018


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