Volvo’s self-docking boat tech is now a reality

The system compensates for the tides and wind to keep the boat moving in a straight line.

Volvo Penta

Penta, the maritime subsidiary of Volvo, has announced the commercial arrival of its autonomous boat docking system. Integrated Assisted Docking (AD) is designed to handle the complicated mess of driving a vessel into dock, making the pilot’s life a lot easier.

When you’re trying to steer into a dock, the endless fluctuations of the tide and wind make it that much harder. Plus, you’re not just trying to keep your own boat from crashing, you’re also trying to not bump into anyone else’s, either. The cost of making a mistake could be substantial, not to mention the risk of getting kicked out of the yacht club.

Penta’s system that knows the boat’s location — using a combination of GPS, on-board sensors and dynamic positioning -- and makes adjustments on the fly. The vessel’s pilot just needs to grab the joystick and point in the general direction, and the system will make the hard yards.

It was two years ago that Volvo Penta first showed off this system, during the Swedish leg of the Volvo Ocean Race in Gothenburg. The test-bed boat was positioned between two 72.6-foot racing yachts, and seamlessly managed to guide itself between them without any stress.

This is relevant and important not just for the bougie types who want to show off, but for the future of maritime travel. After all, being able to make a boat drive in a straight line — automatically compensating for the environment — should make sailing safer. And, of course, it’s another step on the road towards fully autonomous seagoing vessels.

If you’re the sort of person who has “new boat” money, you’ll be able to order the self-docking boat technology this spring. You’ll also be able to get the technology added to your existing Volvo Penta motor yacht if it’s sized between 35 feet and 120 feet, should you only have “upgrade your existing boat” money.