Ford is making waves with its Pro Trailer Backup Assist on the new 2016 version of the 2015 Ford F-150 – the system that allows the driver to steer the truck using a dash-mounted knob that makes backing a trailer an easier task. Now Continental is taking the idea one giant step further with its Trailer Assist technology marketed directly to automakers.

Continental’s new system allows the driver to control his truck or SUV from an Android or iOS device from outside the vehicle – all while spotting himself as the truck and trailer reverse. Yep, this is essentially a remote control for your truck that runs off your phone or tablet.

The system works by using a vehicle-produced Wi-Fi signal to communicate with the smart device. A 360-degree camera system (like on Ford and Nissan) helps the driver spot any obstacles from an overhead view shown live directly onto the Android or iOS controller. From there, the driver controls the brakes, throttle, and gear positions using the touch screen. Let go, and the vehicle stops. The Continental system also incorporates a dash-mounted dial like the F-150 for backing the trailer from the driver’s seat.

Continental says the system is intended to make drivers who lack experience more confident when backing a trailer. It’s also for the seasoned pro who has to back a trailer into a tight space without a spotter. Regardless of who uses the system, it technology is incredibly fascinating. Continental says its Trailer Assist system will be ready for production by 2018. Chevy, Ram, Nissan, Toyota – are you listening?

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

The proliferation of technology in the light-duty truck segment is expanding at a nearly exponential level. Trucks now come with exterior cameras, heated and cooled seats, panoramic glass roofs, turbocharged engines, 10-speed transmissions, and even adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist that vibrates the driver’s seat if he’s veered off track. We’ve come a long way since the single cab, long bed trucks of decades past.

It is technology like this that makes everyday life much simpler. Who would have ever though you’d be able to remotely control your truck via a smart phone while backing up a trailer?

Continental Unveils Trailer Assist Technology Interior
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Source: Continental

Press Release

The international automotive supplier Continental has developed a safer, easier way to back up and park vehicles with trailers. This trailer detection and control system – called Trailer Reverse Assist – uses an Intelligent Rear Camera Module for enhanced viewing and trailer detection. The trailer can be steered with a control knob from inside the vehicle. This technology will be ready for production by 2018. Optionally, a wireless tablet/smart device can be used to remotely execute backing and parking operations from outside the vehicle.

“Backing up or parking a vehicle with a trailer is stressful and difficult, even for the most advanced drivers,” said Steffen Linkenbach, Head of Systems & Technology, Continental North America. “By exploring new approaches, we are making it easier, more efficient and safer. The optional wireless remote control system allows a driver to maneuver the vehicle and trailer while standing next to it. It gives the driver added visibility that is usually only seen by someone providing guidance outside the vehicle.”

The intuitive controls and improved visibility made possible by Trailer Reverse Assist enhance the driver experience and operational safety of truck-and-trailer combinations when conducting low-speed reverse and parking maneuvers. An Intelligent Rear Camera Module integrated with the vehicle’s 360° Surround View system detects a trailer, measures its articulation angle and displays the projected path to the driver.

The innovation is designed to help reduce the stress of backing trailers into tight spots, which even seasoned boating and camping veterans can experience. Threading a boat trailer between two launch ramp docks or lining up the trailer with the boat while it is in the water is made easier and safer by using Trailer Reverse Assist. The remote operation makes it easier to navigate a trailer around trees on a camp site when the driver can stand beside it while backing into the perfect position.

During remote operation from outside the vehicle, the driver uses a smart Android or iOS device to control low-speed steering, shifting, braking and acceleration. The driver must always be engaged with the smart device during the maneuver or the vehicle will stop. The remote control option is an application for hand-held smart devices and requires a direct connection to the vehicle, which currently is being accomplished with Wi-Fi. In addition, projected path overlays and streaming 360° Surround View video around the vehicle are displayed on the smart device to further assist the driver by providing added visibility.

Using a smart Android or iOS device, the driver can remotely control low-speed steering, shifting, braking and acceleration from outside the vehicle.

“Continental’s Trailer Reverse Assist has the potential to be a stand-out technology and a unique selling proposition for tomorrow’s truck market,” said Linkenbach. “It opens the door to the possibility of autonomous trailer backing and parking in the future.”

The Trailer Reverse Assist also offers the option of a center-console-mounted control knob to maneuver the vehicle and trailer from the driver’s seat. This provides a more intuitive and easier-to-control interface than a traditional steering wheel or joystick. The 360° Surround View displays the projected trailer path on the vehicle’s center console screen.

The Continental Trailer Reverse Assist technology increases operational safety when maneuvering trailers of nearly any size and helps address blind zones and inadequate sight angles that could prevent a driver from properly and efficiently backing a trailer without assistance. In addition, the system is equipped with an anti-jackknifing algorithm to help the driver steer clear of potentially costly situations.

“This system can help inexperienced and untrained drivers back up trailers with a reduced risk of incident,” said Linkenbach. “For experienced drivers, it offers assistance when maneuvering unfamiliar trailers into challenging spots.”

For the Trailer Reverse Assist, a 360° Surround View, which consists of four Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) Megapixel 185-degree fisheye cameras; an electronic brake control module; an electric power steering system; and, scalable human-machine interface devices (e.g. smart device) are necessary. The system is designed to be fully scalable, depending on the level of trailer backing assistance the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) customer wishes to offer. Trailer Reverse Assist is the latest technology to come out of Continental’s advanced development process.

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