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id you know that collisions are the number one source
of boating accidents according to the USCG statistics?
What if new boaters could drive a boat like a car? Would a
foot throttle result in a more favorable reaction time, possi-
bly avoiding the collision? That was the question recently
addressed by an USCG grant to ABYC. With help from CED
Investigative Technologies, the ABYC Technical Department
set out to evaluate foot throttles.
The process
The first step was to design a repeatable and measurable
test scenario. With the emphasis on human interaction and
collision avoidance, a stimulus perception-reaction time
based test was devised comparing the foot throttle verses a
hand throttle. In other words, turn on a specific light and see
how long it takes the subject to react. Do people react faster
with a foot throttle or the hand throttle?
The test platform was a
2009 Mastercraft inboard
ski boat outfitted with an
aftermarket foot throttle
and a light bar in addition
to a slew of sensors, includ-
ing steering wheel position,
rudder position, hand throt-
tle position, foot throttle
position and a three axis
accelerometer. The sensor
outputs were all fed into a
magical yellow box that
ultimately led to a laptop
computer recording the
data. The boat utilized elec-
tronic throttle control so
switching between the
hand and foot throttle only
required switching the
plugs back at the engine’s
The test went as follows:
The test subject, let’s call
him John, filled out a questionnaire and then came out to
the test boat. He was given an introduction and opportun
to run the boat. During the introduction the light bar was
demonstrated and the test scenarios were explained. Th
test was broken down into four major evolutions, hand th
tle scanning, hand throttle focused, foot throttle scannin
and foot throttle focused. Each one of the evolutions was
conducted at 10 mph and 30 mph. While scanning, John
be looking at all six lights; the other lights will momentari
flash until the stimulus light is turned on. For example, th
instruction was “30 mph scanning, when you see a RED li
anywhere TURN and STOP,” John brought the boat up to
mph, the proctors began flashing the white and green lig
then randomly turned on the red light. When John saw th
red light, he immediately took his foot off the throttle an
turned the wheel. This process was repeated with various
commands. During the focused testing, John only looked
a specific light (focused) and the distracter lights were no
The Future . . . A Foot Throttle for Boats??
A Grant from the U.S. Coast Guard Helps ABYC
Test and Analyze
By Brian Goodwin, ABYC Interim Technical Director