Mercury Marine today issued a short media release announcing that it would debut its joystick piloting system for outboard motors at the International Boatbuilders Exhibition and Conference (IBEX), a marine trade show held in Louisville, Kentucky, Oct. 2-4. At the same event, Mercury will display a new-generation VesselView screen, new console-mount digital controls, and an iPhone app called Ship’s Log.

The release implies that the joystick system will be available to the public in 2013. Mercury currently offers a joystick control for its Zeus pod drive and Axius stern drive systems. In the past, I’ve been told by Mercury that creating a joystick control for outboards presented a different set of challenges, one being that the outboards are rigged close to each other, which limits available steering control. Another is cost. The biggest (and most-expensive) outboard-powered fishing boats are often rigged with three or four large motors, and I’m not sure a joystick system could work with more than two motors. But I could be wrong. Mercury has been testing its system in Wisconsin on a Boston Whaler rigged with twin Verado outboards.

Teleflex launched its outboard joystick control at the 2011 Miami boat show ("Teleflex Joystick Control for Outboard Motors Debuts..."). In a short demo, I found the Teleflex system worked quite well. It was able to steer, shift and throttle two outboards independently to produce finger-tip control of the boat around the dock, even to the point of crabbing the boat to its beam. I also know that Yamaha has been working with Volvo Penta on adapting aspects of the Volvo joystick system to outboards, but there has been no indication when that system may appear.