NEW YORK (PIX11) — Pulling a boat in or out of its parking spot can be a nerve-racking experience for both beginners and experts. But what if you could let the boat dock, or undock, without lifting a finger?
Jason Arbuckle is the autonomous technology lead for marine industry giant Brunswick, which previewed one its self-docking boats Tuesday at Chelsea Piers.
“The boat’s moving — you can actually feel it moving around. There’s so many things to manage. Once it gets there, it’s just going to hold it there for us, so we don’t have to do anything,” Arbuckle said.
This vessel features a half dozen stereo cluster cameras, a GPS mapping system, and other high-tech sensors, which control computerized propulsion and steering systems.
“Someone who’s a novice, that’s the biggest challenge people have — docking and undocking the boats,” said Amel Salameh, who owns Big Apple Charters.
When Salameh was asked how many times she’s seen someone damage their boat during the docking process, she quickly replied, “Oh, too often.”
Brunswick has big plans for the technology, which extends far beyond the dock. That includes using all of the cameras and sensors to aid a captain, not just out on the open water, but also during rough weather when they’re trying to get back to the dock.
Alexandra Cattelan, Brunswick’s chief technology officer, doesn’t rule out the potential for autonomous technology to one day help boaters navigate treacherous conditions.
“We have a roadmap that extends up to 10 years. It’s also about seeing everything around the boat, being able to calculate its movement and to avoid obstacles,” said Cattelan.
If the technology evolves the way Brunswick hopes, you still shouldn’t expect to see big boats filled with passengers and no captain on board. There will still need to be someone at the helm, ready to take the wheel just in case.