Michigan Patent of the Month – May 2021

Hitching a trailer to a vehicle requires lining up the two matching hitch pieces – whether it’s a ball and socket, fifth wheel and gooseneck, or classic trailer hitch. This alignment is not always easy, especially if the driver or the helper are inexperienced. The auto industry has been making advancements in sensor and camera technology to help improve driving safety and prevent collisions. Continental Automotive Systems, Inc. have developed a sensor system to help ease this process.

Continental Automotive created a more automated trailer hitch system which uses the vehicle’s neural network. A device is on both the vehicle hitch and the trailer hitch and in communication with each other. The system has components capable of controlling the brake, speed, steering, and hitch connection. Each of these behavioral components can help to maneuver the vehicle as needed. The system uses a camera to judge proximity and inform the behavioral controls of the next direction. By imaging and calculating the pixels, the system can determine distance and determine the best path to connect the hitches. Once they reach the correct position and proximity, the hitch connect behavior executes to connect the two hitch components. In the case of a ball and socket, the hitch connect behavior would determine the height distance and commands the suspension to lower as needed. The autonomous trailer hitching provides a safer and easier hitching method for any driver.

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