By on January 10, 2019

With so many bewildering and downright fantastical automotive concepts premiering at the Consumer Electronics Show this time of year, it’s easy to feel downtrodden by the industry’s mobility shenanigans. Thankfully, CES still plays host to some genuinely interesting tech that might actually make your life a little easier.

For French automotive supplier Valeo, that meant showcasing a system that utilizes cameras and some very careful framing to effectively see through a towed object. Called the XtraVue Trailer system, the technology works in a similar fashion as the nanotechnology invisibility blanket under development by the U.S. military — just much simpler.

Rather than use an elaborate projective fabric that records and mimics whatever’s behind it, à la Predator, XtraVue uses traditional cameras fixed to the back of the vehicle and accompanying trailer and projects a composite image onto a large screen that’s easily visible to the driver.

By keying out areas obscured by the trailer, Valeo can effectively render it “invisible” to the person behind the wheel, creating downright sublime rearward visibility. Still, similar systems already exist on the market. Companies like Rear View Safety Inc. already offer dozens of solutions for those wanting a better sense of their surroundings whilst towing. What makes Valeo’s setup a little different is that its system creates a seemingly complete image when properly set up, even providing a basic outline of the trailer using a screen-within-a-screen effect.

XtraVue is supposed to work directly with a vehicle’s standard backup camera, using a secondary camera at the back of the trailer to fill in the gaps keyed out by the imaging software. We imagine the supplier wants to work directly with automakers to get this into factory vehicles, rather than take the aftermarket approach. However, the current demonstration does not have the system integrated into the car’s infotainment system.

 

Distortion will likely become a problem the larger and longer a trailer gets, at which point you might want to consider a multi-camera setup. But XtraVue looks impressive when used on a smaller rig. Based on footage provided but the supplier, we doubt spacial issues would only crop up in extremely tight quarters, but that’s a pretty inconsequential gripe considering the system will absolutely make towing safer.

Valeo also brought a couple of autonomous concepts to CES. One, a vehicle dubbed “Drive4U,” uses the company’s ultrasound, cameras, radars, and LiDAR systems in conjunction with artificial intelligence. While self-driving remains Drive4U’s ultimate goal, the supplier is also working on ways to control it from a distance. One of those is a remote control that syncs with the car’s functions, but an interesting alternative exists in the company’s Voyage XR, which creates a sort of virtual driving experience.

With Voyage XR, users can pop on a VR headset and manually control the car. It’s a fascinating concept, offering a potential glimpse into our very sedentary future.

Call us old fashioned if you must, but we’re slightly more fond of the invisible trailer idea.

[Images: Valeo]

 

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9 Comments on “Valeo Previews ‘Invisible’ Trailer System at CES 2019...”


  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    This is seriously impressive, and highly useful. I’m curious as to what happens anytime the trailer is turned in a direction the vehicle isn’t. They seem to have deliberately omitted footage on how the system behaves when you make a turn.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I’ve though of piecing together a similar system for my boat trailer. Basically just taking an aftermarket backup camera (super cheap these days) and installing it on the boat then feeding that image to a rear view mirror screen. What helps is having a wireless video feed because if not you need a special trailer wiring harness to get the video back into the tow vehicle. It would make reversing down boat ramps at 4AM much easier. Not to mention all the normal parking challenges that arise from having an extra 20 feet of expensive stuff behind you.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    As regular towers of larger trailers, my wife and I would both KILL for this!

  • avatar
    remusrm

    Fine and dandy but they forgot to put the line where the trailer ends!

  • avatar
    brn

    It seems obvious, in hindsight.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    Erm I think Land Rover already launched this system 2 years ago:
    https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.carmagazine.co.uk/amp/car-news/tech/does-it-work-land-rover-transparent-trailer-car-february-2016/

    Shocking that no one else had copied it so far, especially Jeep as their owner led tow things too!

  • avatar
    Rasputin

    That is a great system for drivers pulling a trailer.
    But I never pull a trailer, though I find myself quite often in heavy tractor-trailer traffic on highways. What I would consider a great system is one with a screen on the rear of the trailer that shows me what is going on *in front of* the tractor.

    • 0 avatar
      TE Lawrence

      At first glance, I thought the image at the top was just that. It reminded me a bit of the polished chrome milk/gas/etc. trailers some rigs pull. But I couldn’t figure out a reason why trucking companies would buy it, unless .gov made it a safety requirement.

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