Arc boats Rockets and boats have more in common than you’d think, explains Ryan Cook. And while I get the feeling that he has made this point before, he’s also the guy who would know.
The stats are impressive. But in an exclusive discussion with Co.Design, Cook shared how Arc pulled them off. While Arc One’s design strategy has borrowed quite a bit from the electric car industry—so much so, that several former EV engineers are on its 45-person team—Cook says building a boat is full of design challenges that are specific to the water . . . and, yes, space.
THE OUTER HULL IS MORE LIKE A ROCKET THAN A CAR
Both a boat and a rocket start with the hull. While the paneling you see on a car is largely about decoration, crumple zones, and aerodynamics, a hull is a seamless supportive architecture. Think of a hull as both the skin and the bones of the vehicle, or the frame and the body in one.
“The surfaces you see are also structural,” explains Cook. “We’ve had challenges making sure no welds are visible, and all the aesthetic lines look crisp.”
As Cook explains, the precise shape of a hull is critical to not just the efficiency with which a boat cuts through the water, but the smoothness of its ride and the shape of its wake (and, yes, water skiers and tubers need some wake for fun). Hulls like that on the Arc One tend to be shallower for balance and maneuvering (better for lakes), while ocean-faring hulls feature a deep-V to slice into waves. And while we know a lot of best practices in hull design, optimizing every curve of a boat for a particular ride is an art and a science.
Cook tells me he’s been on the water testing designs nearly every day for the past two weeks, and the L.A.-based company has been fitting the boats with GoPros to measure wake, and assessing dozens of sensors on things like the battery. “We’re trying to collect as much data as we possibly can every time we go out, so we’re armed with more information to continue to make the boats better and better,” says Cook. As such, I got the impression that the final design is being locked down in the 11th hour. But Arc is confident that the double-digit preorders it’s already received for the Arc One can be shipped within the summer.
THE SOFTWARE CUSTOMIZES RIDE FEEL
If boats have a lot in common with rockets, then there’s one part of the build experience that’s completely different. “Software tends to be pretty simplistic in rockets,” says Cook. But Arc is considering how its custom software can shape the user experience and also improve the product over time.
At the moment, the company is still testing how users should be able to use the software to get more out of the Arc One. They’re experimenting with the option for speed limiters; since most people don’t need to go 40 miles per hour, a self-imposed 25 or 30mph limit would guarantee a user more range.
The boat’s (waterproof, anti-glare) touch-screen computer will allow you to swap between these different modes, much like electric cars do today. What else that touch screen will do is still up for debate. At the moment, the Arc One team promises that you’ll be able to pair a phone on Bluetooth more reliably than is possible with a lot of boats on the market today, and onboard GPS will help keep you on course while boating. The screen also will offer the driver a rear view, so they can watch a water skier in tow without taking their eyes off of what’s in front of them.
“We wanted it to be a supporting feature, not a distracting feature,” says Cook of the Arc One’s infotainment system—though, no doubt, its spartan digital design is in part driven by the company’s need to ship its product. Over time, when boats are actually in customers’ hands, Arc plans to listen for the most requested options, and offer them as simple, over-the-air updates.
In other words, the only barrier standing between finishing this article and hitting the lake at 40mph is a pile of 300,000 dollar bills. Indeed, that’s yet another way the Arc One is like a rocket. Because most of us aren’t making it to the moon any time soon, either.