A new system developed by ZF (Zed Eff) will soon end the hassles of parking a trailer. Even the best drivers are challenged by the counterintuitive pivot point a trailer behind a vehicle creates. Add in a crowded boat ramp parking lot, early morning or early evening dim lighting, and you have a situation many would like to have a better solution for.
ZF is one of the most respected companies in the automotive industry. They supply the transmissions and more to cars like the Acura TLX, Chrysler 200, and many other automakers you would assume could make a slush-box on their own by now. Bosch is the other partner, and they provide the stability control, turbocharger, and myriad other systems in so many brands we might as well just call it everyone. This is not a gimmick created by two guys in a Southern California garage. Not that small companies like that have not done some big things.
The system is simple. You put the trailer near where you want to have it end up. Exit your vehicle, and use a smartphone app to maneuver the trailer back into place. Rather than rely on your drunk uncle Jenkins to shout you instructions, warnings, and apologies from behind you, you can move around to see the trailer and vehicle yourself. Take your hand off the app, and the car stops. Seems a lot safer to me than the insanity I have witnesses at some boat launches.
Unlike a lot of autonomous driving systems, this one will be used in private parking lots and has an obvious safety benefit. Overcoming any legal barriers should be easier than Tesla’s idea of having beautiful people standing outside P.F. Changs controlling their Model S like a six-figure RC toy on the street in San Jose.
ZF does not plan the system as an aftermarket add-on. Rather, it will be integrated directly by manufacturers. This makes sense. Vehicles like the Ford F-150, Chevy Silverado and Jeep Grand Cherokee might be targets for such a system. If you have any doubt how well this system might be received by owners, simply take a look at the rear lower quarter panel on any pickup you see with a trailer. Notice all those dents and pushed in fenders? Those are trailer parking attempts gone wrong. Since those dents are covered by insurance policies, we would not be surprised if this app was suggested by carriers, or even triggered some sort of discount once the system is proven and the ZF’s minions have had a chance to market it to the “Save you 15% or more” cartel.