Land Rover Trick is a Real Treat – “Transparent Trailer” Concept Makes Towing Safer

By Steve & Tamami Laser

Our friends know all about the rigors of trailer towing. Over the years they’ve hitched up flatbeds (loaded with racing cars), caravans (also known as house trailers), and boats. Changing lanes while towing can be challenging, having to rely upon sideview mirrors and the cooperation of fellow motorists. Researchers at Land Rover say they’ve discovered a better way. They’ve developed an innovative camera system that’s said to make a loaded trailer or caravan “transparent” while being towed to improve safety.

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Land Rover’s “Transparent Trailer” is designed to remove the blind spot created when towing. The automaker says it makes passing slower traffic safer while assisting trailer maneuvering by improving visibility. In addition, a new Cargo Sense App allows drivers to monitor the status of the trailer and cargo remotely via their smartphones. Sensors on the floor of the trailer could alert the driver if the load is shifting or if “a horse is in distress.”

Land Rover plans to demonstrate a working prototype of the new Transparent Trailer system installed in a Range Rover research vehicle at the Burghley Horse Trials from September 3-6, in Stamford, Lincolnshire, UK. (video: Land Rover)

The prototype system combines the video feed from the vehicle’s existing surround camera system – including the backup camera and separate cameras on both outside mirrors – with a video from a digital wireless camera placed on the trailer or caravan. The video feeds are then combined to create live images that make the trailer “transparent.” When the trailer is coupled to the tow vehicle, the live video feed would automatically appear in the inside rearview mirror.

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“When you are overtaking it is instinctive to check your mirrors, but if you are towing your vision is often restricted with large blind spots,” said Dr. Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology, Jaguar Land Rover. “Our Transparent Trailer project is researching how we could offer a view out of the vehicle unrestricted by your trailer, no matter what its size or shape. Our prototype system offers a very high quality video image with no distortion of other cars or obstructions. This means the driver would have exactly the right information to make safe and effective decisions when driving or maneuvering, making towing safer and less stressful.”

When backing up, the driver would also be able to view the camera feed from the back of the caravan or trailer through the infotainment screen, with guidance lines calibrated to help reverse both car and trailer.

Cargo Sense is another innovative idea for an in-car trailer monitoring system designed to optimize cargo loading for safer towing. The prototype system combines a remote video camera inside the trailer and a mat of pressure sensors on the floor, that both link wirelessly to the towing vehicle.

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In addition to helping drivers load cargo evenly, the pressure sensitive mat would detect if the load of boxes, antique furniture, a classic car or even a valuable horse is moving around inside the trailer in an unexpected or abnormal way while travelling.

Land Rover says the system would send a “Check Cargo” warning to the dashboard to alert the driver to an issue with the cargo (or a horse) before it becomes serious. Live video footage from the camera inside the trailer could then be made available through the infotainment screen in the vehicle. A passenger would be able to view the footage while the vehicle is in motion. Alternatively, the driver could view the video while stationary to assess the situation in the trailer from the safety of the driver’s seat.

“Many of our customers tow valuable cargo for business and pleasure, so we are researching a range of technologies that would enhance the towing experience and make it safer – for the driver and even their horses,” said Epple. “A permanent video feed to the dashboard from the trailer has the potential to distract the driver from the road ahead. Instead we are developing a more intelligent system that is able to detect a problem with the horse in the trailer and warn the driver. The video is then available for owners to view the inside of the trailer and support a decision to pull over and check the horse.”

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The Cargo Sense app allows the driver to check the status of both trailer and load remotely when the owner is away from the trailer. If a horse owner is away from the trailer while walking the course at an equestrian event for example, the system could automatically alert the owner via SMS if the horse is distressed, if the temperature inside has exceeded safe levels, or if the trailer is being tampered with.

Thousands of horses travel to equestrian events all over the world every year. Land Rover says that finding safer ways to transport them could reduce the potential for road accidents during the journey and injuries to horse and handler when they reach their destination. Serious accidents have been caused by a horse falling inside the trailer or making the trailer sway excessively, or even forcing themselves out of the trailer doors.

Animal physiologist Dr. Emma Punt will work with the British Animal Rescue and Trauma Care Association (BARTA) and the Royal Veterinary College on a research project to better understand horse stress and distress during travel and to see how Jaguar Land Rover’s Cargo Sense technology could be used to indicate horse distress.

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As well as testing a range of devices that measure the animal’s physical wellbeing inside a trailer, Dr. Punt will validate how a pressure sensor mat could identify and locate hoof pressure to highlight if the horse has moved unexpectedly.

“Whether it is to help prevent road accidents and injuries to horse and handler, or even to simply ensure your horse arrives at its destination stress free, I’m sure every owner would like to learn how to reduce stress for their horse during travel,” Punt said.

“Gaining a better understanding of the environment inside the trailer, and the horse’s reaction to it, would make the animal more comfortable during travel and ensure the horse is capable of performing to the best of its ability, whether it’s at a local competition, or a major international event like the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials,” she said.

Dr. Punt is an associate of the British Animal Rescue and Trauma Care Association (BARTA), who provide advice, training and accreditation for those involved in the rescue and trauma care of animals. Click here to visit the BARTA website.

For more information on Land Rover vehicles, visit this Land Rover website and select your country.

The horses in the Land Rover video were cared for by the equine team at Warwickshire College.

Land Rover’s “Transparent Trailer” and Cargo Sense technologies are experimental prototypes and not available for sale. They are demonstrated in Land Rover vehicles in this story equipped for the UK market.

News source, photos and video from Land Rover UK

Story ©2015