Autonomous boating is not just for ships and ferries – it’s fast coming to a boat in your harbor. Mercury Marine is unveiling an autonomous system for outboard-driven boats, probably the hottest category in boating today. Mercury joins other engine manufactureres like Volvo Penta in the race for autonomous boating.

Mercury will demonstrate this “assisted docking” system for the media at two upcoming events by Mercury Marine and Raymarine aboard a Boston Whaler Outrage. The first event will take place at Mercury’s famed Lake X test center. A second demonstration will take place at the 2019 Miami International Boat Show.

The new Mercury-Raymarine system is deployed on a Boston Whaler Outrage.

Lake X has a long history for being Mercury’s top secret test center in central Florida. Lake X was the center of performance tests of Mercury-powered boats, R&D, new product testing and endurance validation.

The secluded freshwater lake is famous for one of Mercury’s most famous PR events that took place in 1957. Mercury conducted a 50,000-mile endurance run, featuring two boats running continuously on a closed 5.8-mile course, 24 hours a day, seven days a week made marine industry history.

Mercury’s secret testing site Lake X was the location for running a 50,000 mile endurance test in 1957 where boats were fueled on the move seen here.

Integrating Raymarine DockSense assisted-docking is a natural next step for Mercury. They introduced three joystick docking systems over the past ten years. All three joystick systems are precursors of autonomous vessel control.

“This demonstration extends Mercury’s role as the leader in marine propulsion,” said John Pfeifer, Mercury Marine president. “Our future is focused on innovation and inspiration on the water. We are on the cutting edge of autonomous piloting and other new technologies and will continue to deliver better boating experiences to our customers.”

Mercury has a line of joystick controllers – including one for outboards – that are being integrated into an autonomous platform.

At Lake X and the Miami Boat Show, the new Raymarine DockSense assisted-docking system will be on display. Mercury deployed the system on a 33-foot Boston Whaler Outrage rigged with twin Mercury Verado engines. Mercury’s new assisted-docking system is a core technology based on the latest aerospace control systems and autonomous-car Artificial Intelligence.

Mercury’s powerful autonomous system will support a wide variety of future uses for assisted and semi-autonomous functionality. Integration with sensors like vision systems and lidar are possible. The Raymarine DockSense system uses advanced machine vision technology to sense and identify potential obstacles. The feedback to the Mercury Autonomous system allows the boat’s JPO system to autonomously respond.

An aerial view of Mercury’s secret test location, Lake X.

“Mercury’s adoption of Raymarine DockSense assisted docking solution will transform the boating experience,” said Travis Merrill, FLIR Commercial Business Unit president. “By combining FLIR machine learning and advanced sensor technologies into DockSense, we take the stress out of docking and making the boating experience more enjoyable for everyone onboard.”

The upcoming demonstrations will capture valuable market feedback. Mercury will use the feedback to work toward the adoption and commercialization of these advanced technologies.