Land Rover has taken camera technology to a new level with the creation of a virtually invisible trailer during towing and cargo sensing technology that makes cargo hauling safer for driver and cargo.
The “Transparent Trailer” aids manoeuvrability during driving and while reversing by virtually eliminating the blind spot a trailer creates. An associated mobile app, meanwhile, lets vehicle occupants check in on the contents of an enclosed trailer to make sure precious cargo, such as a horse, is safely secured. A prototype system is being demonstrated at the Burghley Horse Trials (of which in Land Rover is the name sponsor) near Stamford, England.
Range Rovers have one of the most extensive camera systems in the market (including cameras located on the outside mirrors and the rearview camera that’s becoming ubiquitous in today’s industry) and Land Rover capitalized on it in developing the system to eliminate the massive blind spot posed by a trailer in transport. The missing component is what’s happening directly behind the trailer, which in this application is provided by a camera mounted on the trailer.
Feeds from all the cameras are combined in a manner similar to the way an overhead view is combined to facilitate parking and displayed in the rear view mirror while driving to make the trailer appear see-through.
“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,” explains Dr. Wolfgang Epple, Director of Research and Technology at Jaguar Land Rover. “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 manoeuvring, making towing safer and less stressful.”
The trailer’s video feed also works in reversing manoeuvres, displayed in the infotainment screen with all the distance markers present in today’s reverse camera aids.
The other new technology, Cargo Sense, involves a video feed from a camera inside the trailer and a floor mat with pressure sensors. The feedback is sent wirelessly to the towing vehicle. It’s a technology deemed especially welcome to people towing their horses in trailers.
The system allows cargo to be loaded evenly, and sends an alert to the infotainment system if cargo is shifting during transport. The alert would allow the driver to pull over and view the interior of the trailer through the in-dash display screen.
“A permanent video feed through to the dashboard from the trailer has the potential to distract the driver from the road ahead,” says Dr. Epple. “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.”
A mobile app would allow owners to check on the contents of the trailer while away from the vehicle, providing an SMS to alert the owner if a horse is in distress, for example, if the trailer is being tampered with or if interior temperatures have exceeded safe levels.
Land Rover is reportedly working with animal physiologist Dr. Emma Punt, the British Animal Rescue and Trauma Care Association (BARTA) and the Royal Veterinary College to research the Cargo Sense technology and provide insights into the mat’s pressure sensor positioning and the feedback they offer.
“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,” explains Dr. Punt. “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.”