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Author Topic:   Auto-routing in North America
jimh posted 12-29-2014 01:13 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
When my electronic chart plotter is powered-on, before it can be used I have to acknowledge and agree to the following screen:


Do not rely on this product as your primary source of navigation.

The operator is responsible for using official government charts and prudent methods for safe navigation.

The screen also has a lot to say about any weather information that might be provided:


The weather information is subject to service interruptions and may contain errors or inaccuracies and consequently should not be relied upon exclusively. You are urged to check alternative weather information sources prior to making safety relate decisions. You acknowledge and agree that you shall be solely responsible for use of the information and all decisions taken with respect thereto.

By using this service you release and waive any claims against Sirius Satellite Radio, Inc., WSI, Navcast Incorporated, and Navico Inc. with regard to these services.

User assumes all responsibility for operation and associated risks.

Operation of the device cannot continue until the user pushes an AGREE button. Language almost identical to this or very similar appears on many electronic navigation devices.

It has been noted recently that certain models of electronic chart plotter provide a feature called Auto-Routing. Auto-Routing usually can generate a suggested route from one point to another in a manner that avoids the route crossing shoals or other hazards. In introducing some new products, NAVICO recently included Auto-Routing features, but has intentionally disabled those features in devices sold into North American markets, and even gone to the trouble of geo-fencing the feature on devices sold to the rest-of-world markets so that Auto-Routing will not work in North America. With all those disclaimers already on their products about how not to rely on them for navigatin, it seems odd that a new feature, Auto-routing, would be shut off in some products only for North America.

Navionics Autorouting / Jeppesen Easy Routing

Automatic routing brings the convenience of in-car navigation to boating, giving you the confidence to navigate unfamiliar waters and letting you get underway with less delay.

Navionics Autorouting and Jeppesen Easy Routing are both fully supported on the NSS12 evo2. Simply select a destination, and the chartplotter will automatically suggest the shortest, safest route taking into consideration the draught and dimensions of your vessel.

Navionics Autorouting works with Navionics+ or Navionics Platinum charts. Jeppesen Easy Routing requires Jeppesen CMAP MAX-N+ charts.

* Automatic routing features are unavailable in North America.

Cf.: NSS-Touchscreen-Navigation/NSS9-evo2-en-us.aspx

On the other hand, Garmin is selling chart plotters in North American with a feature they call Auto-guidance.

Enter the World of Auto Guidance

By adding a BlueChart g2 Vision card to your compatible chartplotter, you can take advantage of patented Garmin Auto Guidance technology. Enter the location where you want to go and Auto Guidance instantly searches through relevant charts to create a safe path specifically designed for the dimensions of your boat. Auto Guidance provides a visual path that avoids low bridges, shallow water and other charted obstructions. This allows you to travel to your destination with great peace of mind. But Auto Guidance is even more amazing when it is coupled with a Garmin autopilot system. Engage your compatible autopilot to follow the Auto Guidance route, and it will keep you on route, automatically.


There are several possible explanations for this situation where one company is selling auto-routing chart plotters in North America while others are not.

The first speculation that comes to mind is mentioned in Garmin's statement above: their method is protected by patent in North America. Perhaps Garmin's competitors are reluctant to license the technology or reluctant to test the waters of patent infringement.

A second speculation is that the chart plotter maker, in this case Navico, is reluctant to offer the feature in North American due to fear of litigation for liability for damages caused by use of the feature. This may not be a reasonable speculation because, as can be seen in the standard disclaimer presented, their devices are not to be relied upon as a primary source of navigation.

A third speculation is the makers of the electronic charts are not willing to risk litigation in North America for liability for damages by use of the feature. This is possible because in the case of Garmin, the charts are made by Garmin themselves, while in the case of Navico, the charts are often made by a chart publisher and used under license.

In any of the three speculations, the outcome is the same: you cannot use the auto-routing features of Navico chart plotters in North America.

fno posted 12-30-2014 08:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for fno  Send Email to fno     
[Auto-routing is] not really a feature I would use anyway.
knothead posted 01-07-2015 12:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for knothead  Send Email to knothead     
Lets see, auto-routing hooked up to an auto-pilot, why you don't even need to be there except to drink beer.

What a deal!


deepwater posted 01-08-2015 08:02 AM ET (US)     Profile for deepwater  Send Email to deepwater     
I am surprised the same type of message or warning doesn't pop up on the windshield when you turn on the cruise-control in your car.
jimh posted 01-08-2015 10:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Having an autopilot that can follow a route with multiple legs is not particularly new or notable. Usually the multi-leg route would be created by the navigator. The auto-routing feature lets the chart plotter create the multi-leg route to a destination.

Regarding automobile navigation and auto-piloting, the technology is evolving. One aspect for on-road navigation is to have very good position locating of the vehicle, usually by a global navigation satellite system. As the position resolution of a GNSS receiver improves, it can know the vehicle location with a resolution of less than one meter. If the highway road surface is extremely well mapped with similar precision, the GNSS could guide the vehicle on the highway, probably with some visual sensors for lane markings.

In the past most of the automated highway concepts tended to employ some sort of guidance buried in the highway pavement, but with GNSS position finding becoming more precise, vehicles might become self guided by GNSS.

deepwater posted 01-09-2015 03:07 AM ET (US)     Profile for deepwater  Send Email to deepwater     
Once I thought it strange that the military needed the GPS accuracy down to less than 1/2-meter for the deployment of nuclear items point of impact when 1/2-mile one side or another would produce the same results. And UPS still has a problem finding my street.
jimh posted 01-11-2015 08:07 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Regarding the accuracy of the U.S. Air Force's NAVSTAR GPS, the civilian accuracy has always been lower than the military accuracy. Civilian GPS receivers use the L1 Coarse Acquisition signal. Military GPS receivers use a different signal that provides higher accuracy.

The accuracy of the position solution of a GNSS receiver does not really affect the issue of whether or not use of an automatically generated navigation route for a recreational marine chart plotter can be permitted in North America by certain manufacturers. Because these GNSS position finding systems are global in nature, there should not be any difference in the accuracy of their position solution in North America compared to elsewhere. If anything, the accuracy is likely to be better in North America because there are more augmentation systems available in North America than elsewhere. I don't think a good basis can be made that auto-routing is not permitted in North American due to some problem with the accuracy of GNSS receivers in that region.

The auto-route is based on the data contained on navigation charts, and really has nothing to do with the position accuracy of the GNSS solution. These newer chart plotters have software algorithms that can create a route from one place to another with enough intelligence to avoid routing across shoals and other hazards. These routes are based on static information in the digital charts, not on the accuracy of the GNSS position solution.

A possible argument might be that the electronic chart data in North American might not be sufficiently accurate, while in other regions the charts are better. I don't think that argument will hold up well. Charts for North America are generally quite accurate, and especially better than charts for other regions where charts are not very reliable, but in those regions of the world auto-routing is available to users.

jimh posted 01-11-2015 08:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The concept of auto-routing technology may be new in recreational grade marine chart plotters, but it has been around for a long time in other applications. In the 1970's I worked for a machine tool software company. The company wrote software that guided the operation of numerically controlled machines (NC machines). A fundamental problem in generating routes for the path of the tool was to always move the tool along a route that did not intersect with the workpiece except during the intended machining operations. The software had auto-routing features for the NC machine that would keep the tool point and tool holder away from the workpiece when moving the tool from one area to another between machining operations. This software was in use 40-years ago. The concept of plotting paths of motion while avoiding certain regions in the path in software was employed in these NC machine applications. They were solving the same problem as a modern recreational chart plotter does when planning an auto-route.
dfmcintyre posted 01-13-2015 02:13 PM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
Cadillac Gage?
jimh posted 01-13-2015 03:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Manufacturing Data Systems, Inc., in Ann Arbor. It was a very long time ago. The software ran on a central server, and customers connected to it via Tele-typewriter terminals, like an ASR-33 using a telephone line and a 300-baud modem. They were billed by the minute of connection time. It was long, long ago, in a computing galaxy far, far away. MDSI was founded in 1969. I worked there in 1976.

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