Does it work? Land Rover's Transparent Trailer tested

Published: 18 June 2016

► Land Rover's new 'Transparent Trailer' on test
► Adaptation of JLR's see-through bonnet tech
► Same tech could be attached to caravans, horseboxes  

Remember Land Rover’s see-through bonnet tech showcase from 2014? It used cameras located in the grille of the Discovery Vision Concept to project an image of the road on to the windscreen to help in off-roading situations. This time JLR has turned its attention to the other end of its SUVs, using the same tech to help drivers see behind trailers and horseboxes.

Called Transparent Trailer, the system combines video footage from the existing surround-view cameras located at the rear of the vehicle and on the wing mirrors, with footage from another camera at the rear of the trailer or horsebox. The hybrid image showing a clear view of the road behind and a ghosted image of the outline of the trailer is then projected onto an electronic version of a traditional rear-view mirror to aid drivers when manoeuvring in reverse, and to show when it’s clear to pull back in after overtaking.

We battled our way through tweed and titles at the Burghley Horse Trials (think Goodwood for geldings) to try it for ourselves with a Range Rover hitched to a horsebox, but the same technology could be offered to caravanners and people who regularly transport cars to track days, race meets or classic car events.

And drivers transporting cars in covered trailers could potentially find another JLR towing innovation useful. Called Cargo Sense, it comprises a mat of pressure sensors on the trailer’s cargo floor and an in-trailer camera that relays images wirelessly to the car’s infotainment screen warning of an otherwise unseen shifting load.

You can even monitor the trailer’s status when you’re away from the vehicle using your smartphone. An app tells you the temperature in the trailer and warns of disturbances in the load. Again, it’s geared towards equine fans, but if a tea leaf is helping himself to the 250 GTO you’ve casually left unattended in your Brian James race shuttle while you scoff a Little Chef, you can watch the whole episode unfold in full colour.

Both Transparent Trailer and Cargo Sense are officially just research projects but will inevitably find their way into production in the next couple of years where they’ll be offered as aftermarket kits. Beyond that, JLR is planning a fully automated parking assistance system for trailer-hitched cars.

Three steps to a terror-free tow 

See no evil

1) See no evil

If you tow caravans you’ll be used to this view. Reversing without a spotter can be trickier than doing a Rubik’s Cube in the dark.

The invisible can

2) The invisible can

Transparent Trailer combines images from a camera at the back of the trailer with existing surround-view camera images to let you see the outline of the trailer, but also the road beyond.

Parked life

3) Parked life

Once you’ve parked up and left your vehicle, you can monitor it via the Cargo Sense app, which warns you of any disturbance in the trailer and streams video to your phone.

Did it work?

Yes... 
It seems like pretty straightforward tech, just an extension of the rear-view cameras we're familiar with. But this gadget makes a huge difference to your confidence. Now if they could just help us remember which way to turn the wheel when reversing... 

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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