How Does Digital Navigation on Sailboats Affect Spatial Abilities at Sea?

Although the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) still requires nautical paper charts on pleasure crafts, more and more sailors prefer navigating digitally. What are the impacts on their spatial abilities? The authors conducted a field experiment at the Baltic coast and two simulator experiments with altogether 40 sailors. Participants plotted and/or piloted routes either in the classic manner on paper charts or digitally on an Electronic Charting System (ECS). The authors assessed the situation awareness, the cognitive map, and (for the simulator only) the wayfinding with and without the navigation media. They found that digital navigation significantly impaired the cognitive map. Its impact on situation awareness, however, depended on previous navigation habits: Only sailors who used their paper charts regularly and actively benefitted from the ECS. The authors concluded that ECS navigation with its high level of automation lastingly alters spatial perception at sea and impairs orienting. With the vulnerable electricity supply on sailboats, this is a safety issue for shipping.


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  • Accession Number: 01728419
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jan 28 2020 9:45AM