The challenges and potential embarrassments of parallel parking are familiar to almost everyone, but only boaters know the even greater anxiety of attempting to dock a boat in a tight spot. It's similar to parallel parking, except the "ground" in this case is constantly in motion, bobbing your vehicle up and down.
But just as drivers have been blessed with the advent of self-parking cars, boaters may soon find it much easier to dock without incident, thanks to an innovative technology currently being developed by Raymarine.
DockSense is a new piece of tech that represents the recreational marine industry's "first object recognition and motion sensing assisted docking solution." The new system uses intelligent FLIR machine vision camera technology to analyze real-world imagery, which is integrated in real time with the vessel's propulsion and steering system, enabling boaters to safely maneuver in tight docking environments.
Popular Mechanics writer Ezra Dyer tried out a DockSense prototype on a 33-foot Boston Whaler Outrage at the Miami Boat Show, and called the automated system with stereoscopic cameras "awe-inspiring," and this video demonstration of the technology is indeed impressive.
According to Raymarine, DockSense uses GPS and attitude heading reference system position sensing technology to offset the effects of wind and currents. In addition to the many cameras, the technology also incorporates a central processing module and a DockSense app, which runs on Raymarine's Axiom navigation display. The system works with modern joystick propulsion systems, giving boat operators assisted steering and throttle commands to help them avoid costly collisions as they dock their vessels.
As with many cutting-edge automation technologies, the biggest impediment to widespread adoption may be initial reluctance to put one's faith in a newfangled device.
"For me, the hardest part about using DockSense is learning to trust it," Dyer concluded. "After thousands of self-guided trips to the dock, it takes some mental gymnastics to convince yourself to stand there at the helm and not steer or work the throttles. You push a button on the joystick control, then step back and watch the system go into action."