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Old 09-16-2019, 07:49 PM   #1
RUGMAN
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Default self driving boats

Sunday was a beautiful day on the lake, my wife and I took a nice long trip over to Alton Bay, as I was cruising along enjoying the view, I started to think, would there ever be a day when there will be self driving boats, with all the hype with self driving autos, and how would they navigate the witches without a lighthouse ??
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Old 09-16-2019, 08:42 PM   #2
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Totally self driving from leaving the dock to your destination is probably a ways off, but the reality is autopilot has been around for a while and with all of the technology out with GPS, radar, AIS, etc., we are already there in a lot of ways.
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Old 09-16-2019, 09:11 PM   #3
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Default Probably better...

Than some of the "captains" out there on the average summer weekend. I saw a lot of strange stuff this summer.

Lot of big boats with small brained helmsman...

Enjoying post-Labor Day!
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Old 09-16-2019, 10:52 PM   #4
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Default Big boat?

I'm not sure what a big boat is. In the 50's my family owned a 30' cruiser. A big boat for the day. Now, a 25' (common) deep vee will throw a bigger wake, never mind what a 20' wake boat will do. Categorizing is usually not a fair statement.
You want "self-driving"? Get rid of your ego and let your wife, or other passenger, take the helm. This macho thing that the man has to drive is just plain ridiculous. I hope when you have a heart attack, your wife or other passenger, can drive to the nearest dock and call for help on the VHF. If that isn't the case on your boat, I suggest you are not a qualified captain. Safety of crew and passengers first, Captain goes down with the ship.
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Old 09-16-2019, 11:34 PM   #5
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It will never happen.

After one weekend day on the job the computer would resign.
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Old 09-17-2019, 06:20 AM   #6
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It will never happen.

After one weekend day on the job the computer would resign.
We'd all just complain about its driving skills anyways...
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Old 09-17-2019, 08:08 AM   #7
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We'd all just complain about its driving skills anyways...
Nope, it would just ruin the lake, without anything watch and laugh at or shake our heads at while at the sandbar, it would just be so boring no one would go anymore.

Then you would just have a bunch of self-driving boats full of robots riding around the lake and clogging up the sandbars and we would be paying giant bills for it all as our self-driving boats and fun robots will be like our cable tv with its 1000 channels we never actually watch,,,

Time to bring back analog boating, no bow thrusters with joysticks, no GPS, no drive by wire, just good old fashion clouds of 2-cycle oil, clothesline steering with all the pulleys, water skiing on plank skis behind an old Glastron with back to back "jumpseats"

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Old 09-17-2019, 09:20 AM   #8
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Self-driving boats are a lot closer than self-driving cars (self-driving cars are still a LONG ways off).

An autopilot and programmed course can get you most of the way to "self driving boat" pretty easily. Radar-based collision avoidance (or warning) is also available.
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Old 09-17-2019, 12:58 PM   #9
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Self-driving boats are a lot closer than self-driving cars (self-driving cars are still a LONG ways off).

An autopilot and programmed course can get you most of the way to "self driving boat" pretty easily. Radar-based collision avoidance (or warning) is also available.
How? Do Tesla's not auto pilot them selves already and utilize camera systems to avoid collisions?
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Old 09-17-2019, 01:39 PM   #10
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How? Do Tesla's not auto pilot them selves already and utilize camera systems to avoid collisions?
In very ideal circumstances, yes. But surely you've heard of Tesla drivers that were killed while operating under autopilot mode? Or the Uber test car that struck and killed a pedestrian?

The self-driving cars are mostly OK today at dealing with what I would call "normal" conditions - well marked roads and signs, no adverse weather conditions, minimal amount of random incursions into their lane by pedestrians/animals/etc.

BTW, I've been working with AI and video analytics applications using deep learning for more than a decade, including self-driving vehicle applications. Not only is the "learning" part not there yet, the various sensors used (lidar, optical or thermal imaging, short-range radar, etc.) all have enough short comings on their own that even if the software was perfect, the input data is far from reliable from the perspective of creating a truly hands-free self-driving car.

Where are at the stage of highly assisted driving. That is unlikely to advance significantly in capabilities in the next decade. What we will more likely see is the current advanced technology seen in Tesla or Mercedes vehicles working its way down to average consumer vehicles.
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Old 09-17-2019, 02:39 PM   #11
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In 1933, a 37'10" sailing yacht w/ 7-feet draft, the Winnibelle II crossed the Atlantic from France to New York using an autopilot sailing system while sailed by one lone sailor.

You just set it, fo-get it, and go below to catch some sleep or whatever ...... if it worked good back in 1933 ..... then, it should work good in 2019 on Lake Winnipesaukee ...... the Winnibelle II in 1933!
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Old 09-18-2019, 08:08 AM   #12
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My boat came with auto-pilot and I thought it might be nice on occasion, until I started using it. WOW, it is awesome. I only use it to hold a heading (not to follow a route), but it dramatically improves the boating experience and reduces fatigue on long passages. I hardly touch my wheel at all now and use auto-pilot to steer 98% of the time. When I was transiting the Erie Canal earlier this year, I found it incredibly useful to maintain a perfectly straight course on the long straight sections of the canal. I also got very good at steering with incremental heading degree changes on the auto-pilot push buttons when I went through turns. I don't think I'd ever have a boat without it now.
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Old 09-18-2019, 01:50 PM   #13
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My boat came with auto-pilot and I thought it might be nice on occasion, until I started using it. WOW, it is awesome. I only use it to hold a heading (not to follow a route), but it dramatically improves the boating experience and reduces fatigue on long passages. I hardly touch my wheel at all now and use auto-pilot to steer 98% of the time. When I was transiting the Erie Canal earlier this year, I found it incredibly useful to maintain a perfectly straight course on the long straight sections of the canal. I also got very good at steering with incremental heading degree changes on the auto-pilot push buttons when I went through turns. I don't think I'd ever have a boat without it now.
I am in the process of installing an auto pilot, for most of the same reasons you describe. It's less for pure auto-routing, and more for just basic course keeping and less driving fatigue on longer trips.
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Old 09-18-2019, 06:16 PM   #14
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I am in the process of installing an auto pilot, for most of the same reasons you describe. It's less for pure auto-routing, and more for just basic course keeping and less driving fatigue on longer trips.
What kind of boat?
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Old 09-18-2019, 08:06 PM   #15
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I am in the process of installing an auto pilot, for most of the same reasons you describe. It's less for pure auto-routing, and more for just basic course keeping and less driving fatigue on longer trips.
You're using this on a lake?
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Old 09-19-2019, 05:12 AM   #16
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I'm intrigued by auto-pilot on a consumer level boat. How does it adjust for chop? Obstacles? Or does it just adjust steering and the driver needs to be alert and adjust for those things? If the latter, I think I might become complacent from the break and lose track...

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Old 09-19-2019, 07:12 AM   #17
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I'm intrigued by auto-pilot on a consumer level boat. How does it adjust for chop? Obstacles? Or does it just adjust steering and the driver needs to be alert and adjust for those things? If the latter, I think I might become complacent from the break and lose track...

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It has to be connected to a flux gate heading compass for a heading, and if you want to follow a route, a GPS too. If the boat gets off course or off heading, it applies opposite rudder to compensate. Mine supposedly has a self-learning algorithm that adjusts the gain of the adjustments based on the reaction time of the boat and it apparently does this all the time so that in rougher water, it will make more aggressive corrections. Following seas and quartering seas seem to challenge it more than head seas or beam seas, but it does a better job of holding a course than I can do.

What I have found is that I can concentrate more on keeping watch as I am not making constant course corrections AND I don't get nearly as fatigued as I used to get on long passages. I think it has made me safer. This year, I did double digit five-hour to ten-hour passages (50 to 120 nautical miles each) on my "new" boat and that's something I would have never done in my old boat. That said, I routinely covered those distances in my old boat, but at three times the speed, so 1/3 the time and a lot less fatigue.

I'm not sure I'd bother installing auto-pilot on a Winni boat unless I was using it to cross the length of the lake routinely at <11 knots.
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Old 09-19-2019, 08:11 AM   #18
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Many years ago, with a group of friends, we rented a 40 foot trawler style boat with a 15 foot beam. The downside was it had a single 120 HP diesel, no thrusters, and top speed was about 6 knots. It was a joy to dock! The upside was the autopilot. It held the course well and I am sure the units of today are a lot better.

On a smooth clear July day we left Hyannis for Nantucket and knew it would be about 4 hours of slow boating. Once we set the autopilot we were all in the back of the boat playing cards. We only had to look out every 1/2 hour or so, see that there was nothing in our area, or headed our way, for at least five miles (or as far as we could see) and go back to the game. It worked very well, even with the older technology.
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Old 09-19-2019, 08:38 AM   #19
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Default Less Fuel??

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This year, I did double digit five-hour to ten-hour passages (50 to 120 nautical miles each) on my "new" boat and that's something I would have never done in my old boat. That said, I routinely covered those distances in my old boat, but at three times the speed, so 1/3 the time and a lot less fatigue.
Probably a lot less fuel also Dave??...

Sounds like you having a blast!!

Dan
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Old 09-19-2019, 09:19 AM   #20
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What kind of boat?
Silverton 330 Sport Bridge.
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Old 09-19-2019, 11:10 AM   #21
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Probably a lot less fuel also Dave??...

Sounds like you having a blast!!

Dan
Not less fuel, about the same, actually, but only because I occasionally get on plane to load the diesels and blow out the soot, which is recommended by Caterpillar. The boat has a 1200 mile range so fill ups are few and far between, but they are shockingly expensive when they happen. Our first two fill ups added up to more than our first boat cost...

We went from a 6000 lb boat to a 32,000 lb boat, but at hull speed (8.5 knots) the bigger boat is pretty thrifty and gets about 2.8 nautical miles per gallon pretty much regardless of load or sea state. The smaller boat got 2.6ish statute miles per gallon at 32ish MPH, but that varied wildly depending on sea state and load.

We are having a fantastic time. It's so cool to see whales/dolphins/seals/sunfish all the time (like almost every trip out) and the virtually unlimited ports of call make for interesting boating. I miss the warm water for swimming and I am tired of dodging lobster traps all the time though.
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Old 09-19-2019, 12:28 PM   #22
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I miss the warm water for swimming and I am tired of dodging lobster traps all the time though.
You're not far enough south yet. GOM is about 88 right now
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Old 09-19-2019, 09:46 PM   #23
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It has to be connected to a flux gate heading compass for a heading, and if you want to follow a route, a GPS too. If the boat gets off course or off heading, it applies opposite rudder to compensate.
To expand on this; course and heading are two very different things, and they are very easy for many folks to confuse. Heading is the direction your vessel (bow) is facing, and course is the direction your vessel is moving. Obviously the dynamics are very different in the water (wind, current, sea state etc.) and the direction your vessel is facing is not always the direction its moving.

Autopilot without a GPS input (gyro only) is really a misnomer and not autopilot at all, it is simply auto heading and maintains only the direction which the vessel is facing, not a course. In my opinion, for most recreational boaters, auto heading is a waste of money and a highly risky tool. If you are considering a similar system, spend the money and get a true autopilot system with both gyro and GPS (or even better, multiple GPS) input.

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You're not far enough south yet. GOM is about 88 right now
Even ~150 NM offshore

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Old 09-20-2019, 06:36 AM   #24
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In my opinion, for most recreational boaters, auto heading is a waste of money and a highly risky tool. If you are considering a similar system, spend the money and get a true autopilot system with both gyro and GPS (or even better, multiple GPS) input.
I concur with your definitions, but disagree on your opinion to not use an autopilot to hold a heading only. It works great and when combined with regular navigation is not risky at all. Having to modify a heading to maintain a course gives one a greater understanding of what's actually happening with currents, tides, winds etc. It also keeps the mariner engaged with the process of navigation and piloting.

On Lake Erie, Long Island Sound and Buzzards Bay, I could set a heading for a destination 30-80 miles away and never touch the auto-pilot the whole way there. On the NH coast, if I set a heading for a port 10 miles away (like Islaes of Shoals from Hampton River), I'll probably makes at least 5 heading adjustments on the way there, excluding adjustments for lobster traps (I generally just adjust 10 degrees one way and 10 degrees the other way a few seconds later to avoid them). The currents generated by the 8-11 foot tides we regularly see are really strong, even miles out.
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Old 09-20-2019, 06:53 AM   #25
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It works great and when combined with regular navigation is not risky at all. Having to modify a heading to maintain a course gives one a greater understanding of what's actually happening with currents, tides, winds etc. It also keeps the mariner engaged with the process of navigation and piloting.
Absolutely true, IF you have someone who fully understands the system and what it is and is not capable of doing, as well someone who is attentive to their environment. Unfortunately I've see it misused and or an over reliance on the technology, both in recreational boaters and in a professional environment.

Much like the technology in mentioned above in Tesla's cars; amazing if used responsibly.
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Old 09-30-2019, 11:13 AM   #26
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I have been using my auto pilot for over 10 years on Winni and a few ocean trips. As mentioned, it greatly reduces the boring constant corrections needed on an i/o driven boat. It goes where I tell it to go, either by a gps route or an individual heading. I've been in some very windy and strong currents and it will always correct to the course given.

Of course, I still have to make certain it is being told the CORRECT place to go. Either because I screwed up or something else has changed, like another boat wanting to go the same place.
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