Land Rover Discovers the Secret to Towing

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Although we don't usually do this, we're going to predict the future for you right now. Yep, you heard it here first. In the next 10 years, new towing tech developed by Land Rover will come standard on all new full-size pickup trucks.

Land Rover's Transparent Bonnet virtual imaging technology was first seen on the Discovery Vision Concept (see first video below) before the all-new 2015 Land Rover Discovery debuted last year.

The idea is pretty simple and is likely to revolutionize the way people off-road. Using existing cameras and head-up display software, the vehicle's hood "becomes" transparent, revealing what's going on underneath the front end as if the driver is looking straight through the hood, engine and chassis of the four-wheeler to the obstacles below.

Moving forward, Land Rover is developing the Transparent Trailer for buyers who tow trailers. Again, the idea is pretty simple: The camera and computer system eliminate blind spots when towing and allow the driver to constantly keep track of everything going on behind and inside the trailer, like an approaching vehicle, a loose tool box or a distressed animal.

The Transparent Trailer concept uses the video feed from the vehicle's existing surround-view camera (like the one that exists on the 2015 Ford F-150), which includes the backup camera and the cameras underneath each side-view mirror as well as a digital wireless camera placed on the rear of the trailer. The various camera feeds are combined in a new software package to create a live video feed that makes the trailer and its cargo transparent in the rearview mirror. Additionally, a few sensors on the floor of the trailer can alert the driver to any problems inside the trailer while en route via the multimedia screen. You can even download an app to a smartphone that allows monitoring of the towing rig and its contents wherever you are.

This advanced use of cameras and video feeds is likely to make towing anything from a small trailer loaded with lawn equipment to a road-show trailer loaded with four custom hot rods a much safer experience.

We're guessing all big-truck makers are already looking at this type of technology (it's on the docket for some upcoming bigrigs), and it is likely to be available on a Ford Super Duty, Ram Heavy Duty or Chevrolet Silverado HD in the next few years, if not sooner.

We can't wait to try it out.

Manufacturer image

Transparent Bonnet

 

Transparent Towing

 

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Comments

In all honesty this looks annoying and distracting if used while driving. Might be nice for backing in a big trailer perhaps so you can see clearance, but then again that is putting a lot of trust in how accurate the view is to an actual object.

This would be great for four wheeling, not for going down the highway. When I read the headline I figured it was an article on how to tow the Land Rover to the nearest dealer for repair, as every comparison article I have read say they are unreliable.

Ford, Alcoa Expand Aluminum Supply Deal

Ford said it would expand its use of Alcoa aluminum in its car and truck production.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/ford-alcoa-expand-aluminum-supply-deal-1442273133

Interesting but the problem with electronics is long term reliability and short term obsolescence.

Following any post about new technology on PUTC...

CUE THE HATERS!

"Real towing people don't mind blindspots"
"I like the challenge of estimating what's going on outside of my field of vision"
"I worry about sharing the road with people that don't keep mental track of the all the vehicles that have disappeared into their trailer blindspot, they're unsafe"
"It'll never work with this trailer I can imagine so it's junk"
"It's so complicated, people should just learn to drive and they won't need to see there"
"Things like this make it so simple that people won't give towing the respect it deserves"

Don - you forgot to add Obama interventional government conspiracy intrusion into our private lives ;)

I not so sure about this one.

Camera's are great, but virtual towing?

Maybe in the future we need to log x hours to maintain our licences as well.

Like aviation we could have virtual simulators in each home.

I think they need to start looking at the placement of the screens. The best position might be in the rear vision mirror.

The you can have a virtual screen all the time, not just when towing. The screen will adapt itself to suit your vehicles configuration.

Chuck Taylor,
The link from the WSJ suggests that Ford will increase the use of aluminium in a F-150.

Also, the new deal might something to reflect the current price of commodities, ie, the price of aluminium.

Nothing about increasing F-150 production.

Being able to 'see through' the trailer as if it were a ghost looks awesome to me. Whether it is used for monitoring traffic or backing between obstacles in tight place, 'being able to see always trumps 'not being able to see'.

With all the talk of autonomous vehicles, will this technology be necessary?

In a decade or so, what will we be driving?

Somehow I don't think autonomous vehicles will be a hit.

So, as an investment into our futures this tech does make sense.

Will we see this tech on semi trailers first? You would think this tech would be beneficial to the trucking industry prior to the private automotive sector.

Big Al from Oz - autonomous vehicles will only work if all are autonomous. Mind you, computer capacity tend to double every 6 months so exponentially the computing power will be there to handle it. (other than anticipating the stupidity and irrationality of humans).

I'd rather have people actually worry about driving than checking screens and fiddling with gizmos. I ride a motorcycle much of the year and have had morons often wander into my land pulling trailers.

Also, I thought that the backup camera on my pickup would be really slick. The reality is that I only use it if I am hitching up to a trailer.

Now the're going to eliminate side mirrors

That's what we need, people changing lanes and forgetting they are towing a trailer. I can't wait.

Technology is trying to make driving safer but the reality is it will have the complete opposite effect as it becomes yet another distraction. Driving was MUCH safer before we had all these gizmos. And that is coming from someone who works in the high tech industry...

No way in this day and age will I continue to ride a motorcycle. Driving a high profile truck I see so many distracted drives with their face in their phones. Doesn't matter how good of a rider you are any longer. One of these dopes will take you out.

So if Ford is expanding their aluminum deal with Alcoa then the question remains is who is Ford trying to foil. Does appear that Ford has wrapped up a deal with Alcoa but how does this appear to pertain to this article about a transparent hood and trailer sensing device on Land Rover Discoveries? Ford sold Land Rover and Jaguar to Tata an Indian based manufacturer. Unless Ford plans on using this technology on their vehicles how does an aluminum contract for Ford relate to Land Rover?

As far a technology it would not surprise me to see this as an option for pickups and suvs.

@Lou_BC--As for Obama effecting regulations pertaining to this I doubt in the next year and a half that he will be able to require this as mandatory equipment on any vehicle. Obama
is a lame duck President. After reading the National Post while in Canada it appears Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party might not get a full majority so there is a possibility that Canada will have a new Prime Minister. The US might get Donald Trump as President and you might get another Trudeau.

@Lou_BC--We might see autonomous vehicles when the Millenniums start to buy more new vehicles since they prefer to text, tweet, and twitter over driving. Many of the younger generations don't want to be distracted from using their electronic devices by the mere inconvenience of having to drive. "Driving is such last century."

It isn't just Millennials.

I know a guy in his 60's that essentially said, "my car is nothing but a couch with wheels that takes me to work and market."

I enjoy driving/riding and can't relate. I was derided on here in the past for stating my personal opinion that driving a pickup actually sucks--I only do it when I need to.

@Dav--Pickups do not have the handling stability that a car has. Just the height and size alone makes them not as responsive. I don't own and drive a truck because of comfort and handling as much as for the utility of a truck. Driving through traffic or on a long trip is not something I truly enjoy. Driving on an interstate highway is more of a necessity.

I personally think the technology is pretty cool. I have been on countless trails and I can see this being a benefit. I like the looks of it on and off road.

BUT.. Sandman is correct on this one. The more "technology" they stuff into vehicles, the less reliable and more dangerous they become. That's just a simple fact. Taking driving out of human hands, eyes, and ears increases risk of failure, hacking, and dependency which is all dangerous.

This is the way the world is going, embrace it or ride a bike

Don, you are proof you cannot fix stupid! The safety factor over weighs you ego of going it alone. If you want a challenge turn the system off while in your driveway. That way you will not put anyone in harms way and when you hit something it is all on you.

I think it's OK but I'd rather have one that sees thru clothes. Now were talking!

After only reading the first two comments, I have to wonder what people are thinking. Why would you NOT want to see what's going on behind your trailer? How will you know when it's safe to pull into the next lane when you can't see into that huge blind spot where someone is almost invariably waiting to pass you as soon as they see a hole open up? Too often I've seen this sort of thing happen to all sizes of trucks pulling big trailers, not just 18-wheelers but even boats, horse trailers, etc. They try and try to get over to make their chosen exit, but every time it seems, until one driver shows consideration, a following vehicle will pop out from behind that truck and race up the side, more than once being forced off the road as the truck itself has already committed to the maneuver. Yes, I blame the idiots for not showing consideration, but at least with this system, the truck driver will know that idiot is there.

"I not so sure about this one.
Camera's are great, but virtual towing?
Maybe in the future we need to log x hours to maintain our licences as well.
Like aviation we could have virtual simulators in each home.
I think they need to start looking at the placement of the screens. The best position might be in the rear vision mirror.
The you can have a virtual screen all the time, not just when towing. The screen will adapt itself to suit your vehicles configuration."
-- Posted by: Big Al from Oz | Sep 15, 2015 1:22:25 PM
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I strongly suggest you watch the video again. The driving aspect of the camera system was quite clearly in the rear-view mirror; the cargo aspect was on the smartphone/infotainment system. It seems they did take your thoughts into consideration up front.

"With all the talk of autonomous vehicles, will this technology be necessary?
In a decade or so, what will we be driving?
Somehow I don't think autonomous vehicles will be a hit.
So, as an investment into our futures this tech does make sense.
Will we see this tech on semi trailers first? You would think this tech would be beneficial to the trucking industry prior to the private automotive sector.
-- Posted by: Big Al from Oz | Sep 15, 2015 1:54:33 PM
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Whether we have self-driving cars or not, this system will still be necessary even if it's only for the AI's edification. The AI certainly needs to know what's going on around it as it pulls the trailer as for at least the next couple decades not all vehicles will be self-driving. Even after that, the system simply isn't going to like having such a huge hole in its sensory area where it cannot predict the actions of other vehicles, etc. Yes, vehicle-to-vehicle communications will help, but even then until all vehicles are AI driven, there's too much risk of the unpredictable occurring. That camera on the back of the load, even ignoring the cargo sensors, is a huge benefit to the driver.

Just as the video display on the back of a trailer can be a huge benefit to following drivers to see what's going on in front of the tow vehicle.

"Technology is trying to make driving safer but the reality is it will have the complete opposite effect as it becomes yet another distraction. Driving was MUCH safer before we had all these gizmos. And that is coming from someone who works in the high tech industry...
No way in this day and age will I continue to ride a motorcycle. Driving a high profile truck I see so many distracted drives with their face in their phones. Doesn't matter how good of a rider you are any longer. One of these dopes will take you out."
-- Posted by: Sandman | Sep 15, 2015 5:32:54 PM
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I appreciate your thoughts on this, especially since you are in the high-tech industry; but I think you're wrong about driving being much safer before technology. Remember, those side mirrors on your cars today were a technology mandated by the government almost 50 years ago. With my first car I CHOSE to install a passenger-side rear-view mirror because I understood the benefit. The distracting portion of technology today isn't its existence, it's how it is being used by the driver.

Yes, I fully understand a driver drifting into your lane as you're trying to pass; that driver isn't using the technology correctly. They're probably either chatting on their phone or trying to monkey with the infotainment system rather than focusing on the road. Part of that is individual negligence, the other part is poor design and one reason why cars typically get poor initial review today; the control system is too complex, which becomes a distraction. But...

Let's consider a well-designed system. As drivers, we're used to looking straight ahead, glancing up and to the side for the rear-view mirror, farther over and down for the side-view mirror and then back to just off of the steering wheel on your side for the other side-view mirror. If those side view mirrors are replaced by cameras, an equivalent display needs to be placed in the same approximate area. On the other hand, a more advanced HUD system (Heads Up Display for those unfamiliar with the term) could have the windscreen in front of the driver offering not only the forward view, but projections from a rear-view and side view cameras relative to the center of the viewing area, keeping the driver's eyes forward and on the road at all times. Yes, until the driver gets used to it they will get a little confused and that's why it's been so difficult to get any HUD system really going in cars. But it can work, and much more efficiently than what we have now which requires warnings attached to almost everything in the car today. (Useless warnings, as idiots will do what idiots will do and the smart ones don't need them.)

Yes, even your motorcycle, were you to have a HUD-type system for your helmet, could benefit by letting you keep your head up and facing forward. The challenge is to keep it simple while presenting enough information to meet the needs of operating the vehicle.

Yada yada yada... Get out on the highway in a high profile vehicle around my parts and see how many people are focused on their gizmo and NOT on the road. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to put two and two together to understand we are driving in much more dangerous times than before all this new personal tech hit us.

If people would just drive and focus on the road instead of all this useless BS we would all be safer.

Yada yada yada... Get out on the highway in a high profile vehicle around my parts and see how many people are focused on their gizmo and NOT on the road. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to put two and two together to understand we are driving in much more dangerous times than before all this new personal tech hit us.
If people would just drive and focus on the road instead of all this useless BS we would all be safer.
-- Posted by: Sandman | Sep 16, 2015 10:58:39 AM
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I suggest looking at the ratio of traffic accidents today per thousand cars as compared to the ratio in... say 1970. While I agree that these 'gizmo heads' are a problem, the actual proportion of crashes--especially deadly crashes--is significantly lower.

RoadWhale,
I didn't view the video.

Your comment directed at Sandman is quite accurate.

The world is still full of Luddites who dream of the past. Even when I was a kid back in the 60s and 70s the adults then used to state how the older car were better and safer.

The reduction in fatalities can be apportioned to all areas of vehicle use.

1. Training and assessment.

2. Infrastructure, ie, safer infrastructure design.

3. Superior vehicle design.

4. Better enforcement of regulatory controls and violations.

The unfortunate aspect of operating a vehicle on public roads is the regulations and controls are set to the lowest common denominator that is deemed acceptable to operate a vehicle.

I do know there is a difference between countries in standards and you will find the countries with the lowest fatalities generally have better training and harsher licencing than countries with higher fatalities.

Infrastructure does play a significant role, but as can be seen in many Euro area countries deaths are far lower than the US.

Even countries with comparable vehicles and infrastructure as the US have lower road fatalities.

We will see many ideas come an go regarding road and vehicle safety.

Regulations controlling the use of vehicles will evolve along with technology.

You don't see the guys who whine on these sites ever denigrate the web and technology they are using to convey their Luddite views.

What a waste. Everyone knows Land Rover owners don't venture off the pavement, let alone tow anything besides their big egos.

@ Fr0d

Haha true, this tech would be a lot more useful in Wranglers and 4Runners.

@ Fr0d

Haha true, this tech would be a lot more useful in Wranglers and 4Runners.

Another MUST have feature that will probably be required to be standard by law and will help continue to propel the price of a truck to the 100K mark. I can see where this might be an option some might be interested in and by all means offer such a thing and let the market/those with money decide. I don't tow or offroad enough to justify this pricey upgrade that will be mixed into a package of things I want or like I said earlier be mandated at some point down the road.

@RoadWhale correct....but side mirrors aren't ever going to let you down unless a hazard physically knocks them off the vehicle. They rely on the laws of physics and of human sight. There's little to fail or go wrong.

These gadgets are a different ballgame. You're relying on computers, sensors, electronics, a bunch of hardware and software created by imperfect human beings. There's a lot that can go wrong. A lot that can fail.

I'm one of those guys that would rather have a "prop rod" under the hood of my truck than the fancy gas struts that hold the hood up. Sure, the gas struts are "cool"...but they are known to fail, especially in cold weather. A prop rod NEVER fails.

Technology advancements don't always take us forward.

@WXman: Not always, I agree. Sometimes they take us backwards; more by mistake than intent.

However, with the ever-increasing need to streamline our vehicles, those big, almost flat panes of glass and plastic that we call side-view mirrors on our trucks are simply air blockers that cause drag and suck extra fuel out of our tanks one drop at a time simply by existing. By eliminating the need for such big flat panels stuck out in the windstream, we realize cleaner airflow and better fuel economy. We also have the ability to completely eliminate blind spots in a way no glass mirror can yet manage without distorting the distance between the two vehicles. Moreover, those wing mirrors still can NOT see behind the trailer, showing you the fool tailgating you when you go to apply the brakes. There are some things that optical vision simply cannot do and cameras can. The only factor at question then is the reliability of the hardware. As we can see, that hardware reliability is improving--though admittedly not perfect. But then, mirrors can be broken or even knocked entirely off the door, so it's not like they're perfect even there, are they?



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