Land Rover is testing new technology which would mean towed trailers would become ’transparent’, allowing drivers a clear view of exactly what is behind them.
The system, which uses the cameras already in place on Land Rover vehicles plus an additional camera on the rear of the trailer, hinges on the use of a large computer processor fitted in the car which manipulates all of the camera angles to produce a clear, representative image which is shown in the rear view mirror and on the car’s tv/information screen too (see our on test review below).
Jeremy Greenwood, who is in charge of Land Rover’s research department, said the innovative thing about the development was its ability to stitch all of the camera footage together to produce an instant, clear picture of what was following the trailer. "It is a prototype and we are keen to know what people think about it."
There is no delay in transmitting the pictures, which also makes it particularly useful for reversing. The rear camera is linked via the car’s wifi and does not require 3G/4G to work, says the company.
Mr Greenwood said while it had patents on the system, it was happy to allow other companies to use the technology as it was safety-related. However, as the system is a prototype, no price is currently available.
The company is also testing another system designed to alert drivers to loads (and in particular, horses) moving during transport. Based on the use of pressure pads in the trailer floor, it will alert drivers to any sudden changes and allow them to switch to a camera view of the interior of the box to see what has happened. Further development might see the system linked to an app which would send a mobile phone alert if any problems occurred while the trailer was unattended.
Land Rover’s video about the two developments.
Getting your head round the fact you are towing a trailer but that it is 'invisible' when you look in the rear view mirror is a bit of a mind-bender. For a few minutes after we set off on a short test-drive with Land Rover's transparent trailer system it was an issue, but once you became used to it and stopped over-thinking it, it became perfectly natural.
While this was only a short test-drive, this is an impressive bit of kit. It is in real-time, with no delay in relaying the pictures. This means you can see people walking behind the trailer and objects which might otherwise be invisible - and liable to being knocked down.
In the test Range Rover, the 'transparent trailer' picture came up on the rear view mirror and the tv screen mounted in the centre console. We found we looked mainly in the rear view mirror, but when we moved to reverse gear, we opted to use the centre console screen.
The immediacy of the system - thanks to the massive processor in the car which manipulates and produces the on-screen view - means it would be possible to reverse up close to walls, etc with little worry about any camera delay causing a collision.
There's no price for the prototype, but it will be a useful, but possibly expensive, addition for people who tow regularly or who have to negotiate places where there are lots of people around. It would also seem to have a logical place in agriculture where big tractors and trailers might be using busy roads or for reversing in tight spots.