Brunswick Corporation's future autonomous helm experience @ CES 2022 - Show Notes

Brunswick Corporation's future autonomous helm experience @ CES 2022

Friday Jan 28, 2022 (00:10:12)


Over the centuries, the experience of captaining a boat has remained generally unchanged. Sure, new technology has changed the way you interact with the controls, and new sensors have made it easier to avoid dangers. GPS technology has made long travels safer and more direct. But, Brunswick Corporation wants to improve the experience with a suite of new tools for the helm.

Who is Brunswick?

Brunswick is the world's largest recreational boat manufacturer. They have shown off their "Next Wave" strategy which includes elements of Brunswick's ACES - Autonomous, Connected, Electrified, and Shared strategy. Brunswick's Next Wave strategy is all about giving captains more control and improving their experience with new technology.

With Brunswick's Future Helm experience, you'll be able to see how these new autonomous systems will change the way you boat. One of the latest in-market products Brunswick has been showcasing through their future helm experience is how a boat captain might experience autonomy systems.

Autonomous systems can make a big change in the experience of safely captaining a boat. One such enhancement is an autopilot mode which will keep you on track and direct you to your destination. This is especially helpful in inclement weather or when storms suddenly appear as they have been known to do. Brunswick has also included a collision-avoidance system that utilizes sonar and radar technology to help avoid potential accidents. In the event of an emergency, Brunswick has added a panic button that will send out a signal for assistance. This is a newer feature to ensure your safety.

What are autonomous systems?

Autonomous systems are technologies that allow a boat to navigate and operate without human input. This can include features such as an autopilot mode, collision avoidance system, or panic button. Brunswick's Next Wave strategy includes elements of autonomous systems in order to improve the experience of captaining a boat.

These systems in the boats are similar to what we have begun to see in cars. Autonomous cars have been in development for many years, with some of the first demonstrations taking place in the early 2000s. The technology has come a long way since then, and we are starting to see more and more autonomous cars on the road, and many more with semi-autonomous modes, such as self-parking. Autonomous boating is somewhat of a new idea. As with drivers, many boaters may find it hard to get used to or trust as it is just being introduced, but once they have experienced the technology they enjoy its many benefits.

One of the many benefits of using autonomous systems in a boat is improved safety because of the ability to avoid collisions. While we think of the Titanic as a rare incident, boats hit object, including sandbars and rocks, all the time. You also get more control for the captain because it frees him up to watch out for any upcoming dangers.

One of the more convenient benefits is direct navigation to destinations. This allows for less deviation and mistakes, thereby saving time and fuel. This is also extended to include easier docking and maneuvering in tight spaces so as to avoid accidents. All of these benefits and more will help improve the experience of captaining a boat and make it a more enjoyable and safe experience for all.


Brunswick's ACES technology is coming soon to many of the company's models. To learn more about the technology and how you can experience it, head over to the company's website.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central.

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Erin Hurst (00:07)

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Todd Cochrane (00:21)

All right, so go ahead and introduce yourself.

John Reid (00:23)

Good morning. My name is John Reid and I'm the Vice President of Enterprise Technologies for Brunswick Corporation.

Todd Cochrane (00:29)

Awesome. So Brunswick is a name that I'm familiar with but why don't you give folks that maybe aren't a little background on who you are and basically what you're doing here at CES looking to accomplish.

John Reid (00:38)

Great. Well, I have been with Brunswick about two years and spent my previous life in academia and in the industry working for John Deere, actually, who's also here, Go green. Yeah and we're really here about how we're more involved in how technologies especially Asus-related technologies, autonomy, connectivity, electrification, and shared access, help us deliver smart products that deliver smart experiences for our consumers.

Todd Cochrane (00:51)

Go green? It seems like this is kind of the theme we've seen already, during the show some of us seeing companies trying to do that. Can you give me some specifics and some things you guys are working on?

John Reid (01:23)

Well, we've, in the past two years, we've announced plans for a lot of opportunities in electrification, we have multiple products coming out in the near future. Connectivity is one that we've already delivered to the market in terms of how we connect to consumers through our season Connect app. It gives us good insights into what's happening with them on the water and how we can help deliver better experiences for them. In autonomy, at CES, we had autonomous technology. We're working with our partner CRL, Carnegie Robotics and it's providing situational awareness around vessels so that we can deal with those complex situations out on the water where you have difficulty in docking or challenging conditions, and what can we can do to make it easier for consumers to use our products.

Todd Cochrane (02:18)

You know, if I think back, oh, boy, I should know this. There's this global system now to track ships and everything that is...

John Reid (02:27)

It's just like an AIS. Yeah, AIS is what it is. Yeah. So were you guys involved in that at all, or in the early days of that deployment, or? We are not, not many of our boats use that. That's an interesting kind of infrastructure that if we connect to it can help provide information. We have mapping technology, through our Navico organization that allows us to use those maps for navigation.

Todd Cochrane (02:56)


John Reid (02:56)

We have a number of products on the market for automation that are kind of digital control of the vessel being able to move the boat laterally through our Mercury propulsion systems and just trying to make it easier to give the pilot the ability to control the vessel.

Todd Cochrane (03:15)

What is the average deployment size for your guyses gear for is a boat size or ship size?

John Reid (03:21)

We make boats under 50 feet generally.

Todd Cochrane (03:25)

Under 50?

John Reid (03:25)

That's right, and those are a lot of them are mostly used for recreational Marine. That's the focus of our business.

Todd Cochrane (03:32)

Yeah and I think that today, with, I don't know what you guys have seen, but, you know, the camping world has seen a huge surge because of COVID people are out sailing more because of COVID people are boating, they're trying to get out in a way.

John Reid (03:33)


Todd Cochrane (03:35)

So are you seeing a surge in your business from people looking to kind of move a little bit off-grid or get away from the population?

John Reid (03:55)

Yeah, we have seen that and our products have been in high demand during the entire period of COVID. That's makes it that makes it great for trying to add technologies to them to deliver better experiences.

Todd Cochrane (04:08)

Yeah, I follow a lot of sailing channels. I don't sail but kind of live vicariously through YouTube and it's amazing the tech that they have now, at least on some of the yachts and some of the sailing vessels are out there. You talked about some of the proximity stuff and trying to navigate in tighter areas. What are you doing there? Is that through sensors or?

John Reid (04:32)

Exactly. So, a lot of products that you see here have the ability to control the product very accurately through digital means and we have that too in our product offerings today. What's new is providing situational awareness and using the intercomputer and AI to complement what the pilot is doing and to help them in those difficult situations. Give them insights, be able to do the control operations, things like auto docking.

Todd Cochrane (05:03)


John Reid (05:04)

In a situation, awareness means adding perception sensors like you're seeing in automotive to the vessel.

Todd Cochrane (05:10)


John Reid (05:12)

Out on the water, we have this we can sense the surface of the water and things that are above the water as well as things that are in in the water.

Todd Cochrane (05:19)

Under it?

John Reid (05:21)

That's right. We do make sensors for detecting what is under the water.

Todd Cochrane (05:28)

My car has self-parking, but I'm very reluctant to ever use it. I guess I'm old school, I can look over my shoulder in the parallel park no problem but you know, the vehicle you will park itself. Do you find any resistance and some of the old-timer pilots saying okay, well, we can autopilot we can auto dock the boat? Do people get leery of that?

John Reid (05:48)

I think that's actually kind of the crux of all of this. Experienced pilots can do a lot of things but boating is becoming more democratized where more and more people don't have that experience.

Todd Cochrane (05:59)

That's right.

John Reid (06:00)

If you have ever docked a boat, it doesn't matter how experienced you are. There are always people either in the boat or on the dock that have a perspective of how well you did. I mean, it's you think about a boat is not as much like a car. Yeah. No, it doesn't. You've got the wave action and forces that are taking place, It could be current or wind

Todd Cochrane (06:21)


John Reid (06:21)

All of those make that really pretty complicated and you and you don't want to you know if you just stop controlling the boat, it keeps moving. Right?

Todd Cochrane (06:29)

That's right, and it can be very expensive the end result if you don't talk about it.

John Reid (06:29)


Todd Cochrane (06:36)

Exactly. With electrification, there's kind of a similar thing we were at CES the first time in 2020 and we announced a product called the Fathom. There it's thinking about, a lot of people will buy a boat, and they have to buy a generator in genset, just to take long to repower or power to their house side of the boat type of things. We introduced a product that year that takes the outboard and uses it as a source of power to charge batteries and a bank of lithium-ion batteries that we carry in and then we have loads that are in the boat that we can then use like air conditioners and stereos and grills and everything else that we can help keep those operational and give a better experience out on the water without the genset Holes and docks, damage and other boats and everything. So that's really awesome and I think that for me if I must ever buy a larger boat, I'd be in that category. You know, I'd be like, let me get someone on here that can help park this thing. Right, because I know that especially in the sailing world, they don't have well, they usually have, they can motor but I see a lot of those folks are running full-blown generators because you know, to recharge the batteries, but also seeing on now even electric motors that people when they're under sail and the propeller spinning backward and recharging the batteries.

John Reid (08:01)

That's exactly right. So they have the advantage that they can capture the wind power during operation, use that to drive an electric drive that then powers the battery pack.

Todd Cochrane (08:11)

So how are you guys then taking obviously on a powered boat, you're under power all the time. So where is the placement then generally for that? Basically, you're capturing the spin of that prop or the driveshaft to collect energy, where does that happen?

John Reid (08:29)

Well, in recreation Marine, that's kind of the challenge with electrification, you need to capture the power before you go outright and, and have a charged battery pack in and in batteries, of course, are fairly heavy. They displace some of the weight that you'd like to carry people on the boat. So we're looking at use cases that you have to get really detailed and how your consumers are using your product. If they use it a few hours on a lake or in special use cases, then then we can provide enough energy storage today to allow them to go out and have that experience, and then they have to come back to the dock and plugin like your electric car.

Todd Cochrane (09:15)

Alright, awesome. Well, folks, fantastic stuff going on with Brunswick,

John Reid (09:21)


Todd Cochrane (09:23) Thank you for coming out and Sharing.

John Reid (09:27)

Thank you for having me.

Todd Cochrane (09:28)

Absolutely good luck with the show and glad to be back here live with you.

John Reid (09:32)

Thank you.

Todd Cochrane (09:32)

Thank you so much.

Erin Hurst (09:35)

TPN CES 2022 coverage is executive produced by Michele Mendez. Technical Directors are Kurt Corless and Adam Barker. Associate producers are Nancy Ertz and Maurice McCoy. Interviews are edited by Jo Mini. Hosts are Marlo Anderson, Todd Cochrane, Scott Ertz, Christopher Jordan, Daniele Mendez, and Allante Sparks. Las Vegas studio provided by HC Productions. Remote studio provided by PLUGHITZ Productions. This has been Tech Podcasts Network Production, copyright 2022.

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