Volvo Penta has unveiled its vision of what boating will look like in the future, including self-driving boats and floating charging stations...
An eight-minute animated video released at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January, entitled Boating for Everyone, gives some revealing insights into what the world’s largest manufacturer of diesel engines for leisure boats may be working on.
Envisaging boating as a service rather than a privately owned product, it conjures up a world where customers book their boating experience via an app. You simply choose whether you want to cruise, explore, fish, dive, waterski or socialise and programme in your start and finish times.
The system then asks how many guests there will be and their level of experience so it can select an appropriate vessel and level of automation, from a full self-driving mode to a more traditional hands-on approach. It even has a teaching mode.
Getting to the boat would be all part of the service. An autonomous electric shuttle collects you from your current location and takes you to a convenient marina, where an electric boat will be ready and waiting.
This will have been automatically launched from a boat storage facility, charged and provisioned for the day or days ahead.
When everyone is aboard and ready to depart, the boat will release itself from the dock and take you out to open water, avoiding other vessels and observing whatever speed limits and channel restrictions are in place.
The boat will also be able to recommend destinations and activities, while constantly analysing its surroundings and learning what choices you prefer.
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Battery levels will be monitored throughout and recharging will be autonomous, either by factoring in visits to floating charging stations/entertainment hubs, known as Volvo Penta Islands that harness sun, wind and wave power, or via autonomous drones that come to your anchorage and administer a charge overnight. How realistic this vision is and whether it will be welcomed by current boaters remains to be seen.
Speaking at the launch, Volvo Penta’s president Johan Inden said: “What we are sharing is not a ready-made blueprint for the future. It is a conceptual look at how the future could evolve – intended to spark a dialogue.”