Jaguar Land Rover is using cameras and digital technology to make trailers and caravans towed behind its vehicles disappear. The aim: to remove the blind spot that’s created when towing a trailer.
The see-through trailer prototype, developed by the UK luxury car unit owned by India’s Tata Motors (TTM), combines a video feed from the vehicle’s existing surround camera system with a video from a digital wireless camera that is placed on the rear of the trailer or caravan. The feeds are combined to create live video images that make the trailer behind appear see-through, the company says. When the trailer is coupled to the towing vehicle, the live video feed automatically appears in the rearview mirror inside.
When reversing, the driver would 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.
The automaker is also developing a cargo sensor system to make towing safer. A remote video camera inside the trailer and a mat of pressure sensors on the floor link wirelessly to the towing vehicle. The sensors help drivers load cargo evenly. A pressure-sensitive mat detects if that cargo is moving around the trailer in an abnormal way. A warning is sent to the dashboard to alert the driver, who can then view live video footage, which is transmitted through the infotainment system from the camera inside the trailer.
As a luxury automaker, Jaguar Land Rover is targeting the kind of well-heeled customer who might own, and trailer, horses to equestrian events. (The prototype installed in a Range Rover research vehicle will be demonstrated at Burghley Horse Trials in England from Sept. 3 to 6.)
For instance, a permanent video feed to the dashboard from the trailer has the potential to distract the driver from the road ahead. So Jaguar Land Rover says it’s developing a more intelligent system that is able to detect a problem with the horse in the trailer and warn the driver.
The automaker also has developed an app that allows the driver to remotely check on the trailer and the load—for example, horses. The system will automatically alert the owner via text message if the horse is distressed, if the temperature inside has exceeded safe levels, or if the trailer is being tampered with, the company says. Jaguar Land Rover didn’t say when this technology would be available.
Whether customers will use this novel concept—once it becomes available—is another matter. Luxury automakers are under increasing pressure to add new, innovative in-vehicle technology that makes driving a better, safer experience. The problem is customers aren’t using some of the high-tech features that automakers have sunk so much time, R&D, and money into.
In-vehicle technology is big business—about $14.5 billion in projected revenues for this year alone, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. However, a J.D. Power report released last month found that at least 20% of new-vehicle owners have never used 16 of the 33 technology features measured. The five features most commonly reported as “never use” are in-vehicle concierge (43%); mobile routers (38%); automatic parking systems (35%); head-up display (33%); and built-in apps (32%).
The good news for Jaguar Land Rover is that 87% of those surveyed by J.D. Power said they wanted blind spot warning and detection in their next car.