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Personal Theory on why Folding Seats won't Matter - Autonomous Trailer Hitching

Discussion in 'Model X' started by eloder, Sep 18, 2015.

  1. eloder

    eloder Member

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    I wouldn't be surprised at all if the MX is capable of fully and autonomously hitching a Tesla "smart" trailer. To be more specific, I believe that the car will fully maneuver itself into place once you're within a few feet, will raise/lower itself onto a trailer hitch with Air Suspension (possibly with assistance from the "smart" trailer), and make the necessary wireless connections for brake lights and signals, along with retracting supports to ready itself for travel. The "smart" Tesla trailer would be something produced most likely by a supplier, would have the ability to self-lock and may have proprietary additional connections to replace the chains or other safeguards commonly on single-hitch trailers. It likely would run self-contained off a small combination of solar and a battery.

    While this is pure speculation, I think there are a few very important factors that would drive Elon to create such a system:

    1) Supercharging. At most superchargers, you would need to un-hitch a trailer to charge or wait for a pull-in spot to become available, and hitch back up afterwards. That'd add considerable time and inconvenience to roadtripping with a trailer. This process makes sense because Elon designed a complex snake-arm that'd be effective in real-world automated charging for multiple types of vehicles, sizes, and suspension heights--I think it's very clear that he wants a MX owner to be able to eventually park his/her vehicle, press a button, and the car will automatically unhitch, charge itself, then hitch up by the time you're done with dinner. I imagine Elon wants every Tesla owner to be able to autonomously charge once reaching a supercharger eventually, no matter what vehicle they drive. With current tech, simply automated hitching/unhitching would considerably speed up every supercharger visit.

    2) It's well-known Musk used female focus groups in designing the MX. I can only imagine that storage is very important to this group, along with the ability to carry passengers. I think Musk saw an amazing opportunity here and went for it.

    3) We already know that even the MS is planned to be able to self-drive on private property, park itself, and do a few other neat autonomous functions. Maneuvering to hitch a trailer seems super easy for a computer to pull off by comparison. Technology that helps the robo-snake find the charge port likely could lend itself to the car finding a trailer hitch (wireless receiver in the hitch plus camera imagery).

    4) Hitching a trailer is a pain in the rear. It's even more excruciating when doing it solo. Musk tends to build vehicles that, first and foremost, suit him and his multiple children particularly well. Musk also has been single off and on. Hitching a trailer with just yourself is much more annoying than hitching with a partner. Connecting the dots, one day he probably thought "I can design a rocket that lands itself upright--why the hell am I hitching this thing myself?!", and hence this feature came into being.

    5) It seems like Tesla would do, reinvent something mundane from 100+ year old tech (door handles, a front trunk, gull wing doors) and turn it into something 21st century.

    Speculate away!
     
  2. Lyon

    Lyon 2016 S P100DL, 2016 X P90D

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    Trailer hitching with a rear camera is just about the easiest thing to do.

    But I like your idea!
     
  3. NigelM

    NigelM Recovering Member

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    Fun idea, but just fun IMO. Although I'd love to have that it would also, as you note, require the smart trailer to be invented.

    As someone who trailers horses on a regular basis I have to say it takes me seconds to line up and reverse to the exact right spot just by using the rear view camera. The bit that takes the longest is usually winding up the front balance leg/wheel.
     
  4. MorrisonHiker

    MorrisonHiker Beta Tester

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    Hmm. So instead of just folding down the seats to fit my cargo, I now have to pay several thousand for an autonomous trailer so I can carry something that would fit in a normal CUV/SUV? No thanks.
     
  5. jomo25

    jomo25 P4398

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    Certainly possible. If not officially, then by 3rd party (I smell Kickstarter!)

    It could even just be a special rack-like extension that gives you another 2-3 feet for some long items. with rear gate slightly ajar?
     
  6. CarlK

    CarlK Member

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    Sounds like a good idea. Everything seems to be there to do that. Control instructions can be sent via wifi or bluetooth so even hard connection is not needed.
     
  7. eloder

    eloder Member

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    #7 eloder, Sep 18, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015
    Well, if cost is a concern, then there are cheaper SUVs/CUVs out there in the $30k range :) you can save $50k rather than just a few thousand!

    Until Tesla's in the mass market range, I think they'll continue with innovative, luxury features. I also can't think of too many other things that'd fit Musk's statements of that there are significant unrevealed features that won't be known until launch, given what we know now or can for-sure rule out by the design studio. (Assuming Musk blind faith that everything he says is true)

    I don't think such a trailer system would be that expensive though, over a normal trailer. Or they may even have low-cost rentals available for a "smart" trailer for those near SCs. Or they could very easily create a smart trailer adapter--I'm not a towing expert, but it seems like you could create a smart hitch adapter, which could be semi-permanently hitched to your existing trailer. A wireless communication device is super cheap, a battery and small PV cell for this purpose would likely be cheap/small--the most expensive components are likely a secure locking mechanism to replace chains, and a mechanism to retract a stationary support (and I'm sure there could be some neat solution to accomplish this at low cost, like a telescoping support wheel column). I'd guesstimate such a hitch adapter only system could come in at under $500, maybe $1000 at the most with a decent markup so that people wouldn't need to dump their existing trailers.



    That's definitely true--when I think about the most annoying thing with self-hitching, it comes down to needing to enter/exit the car at least once more than normal to finish the process (back into position, secure it, get back in to drive off). Just like pumping gas though, not having to exit the car unnecessarily can end up being a huge plus to owning the car :)

    Another benefit to Tesla having some sort of control/device on a trailer or trailer hitch, too, is that (speculation) trailers would interfere with autopilot functions and rear view cameras, but a smart hitch could incorporate its own backup camera on the trailer itself.
     
  8. hpham007

    hpham007 Banned

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    The cost is only one of many downsides to this solution:

    1. towing a trailer = less range
    2. towing a trailer is more dangerous than driving without one
    3. less secure
    4. even if hitching and unhitching is autonomous, it still can't beat not having to hitch in the first place
    5. maintenance of trailer (tires, bearings, lights)
    6. some states require tags/fees/insurance for trailers
    7. less maneuverability
    8. having to store the trailer when you don't need it
    9. parking will be a hassle

    There's probably a ton more reasons why folding seats are so much better than a trailer but I'm way too lazy to spend anymore time on it..

    :smile:
     
  9. EchoDelta

    EchoDelta Member

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    Your speculation I think is fun, but you made me wonder about self driving and charging of cars on supercharger premises. If a slot is occupied, leave your car parked somewhere aside, and find it later all charged up. Just tossing fun ideas up in the air..
     
  10. eloder

    eloder Member

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    I definitely think that feature is a given, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a roll-out of that functionality alongside the Model 3 rollout. There's way too much tech that's pointing that way--the thinner Supercharger cables, the robotic snake charger that's far more complicated than it should be for automated home charging (but allows it to deal with various vehicles, heights, parking positions, and Supercharger sites), and the references to fully autonomous low-speed driving on private property. I imagine their biggest problem would be legal permission for cars to park/position themselves as well as working out parking for public lots, once hardware is deployed.
     
  11. vitaliy

    vitaliy Member

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    Smart trailer, in addition of being Tesla-friendly, should also have low drag coefficient and come in multiple sizes.
     
  12. ratsbew

    ratsbew Member

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    I think the "smart trailer" is 100% not going to happen. I do think that automatic backing to the hitch is a possible/likely option. You might have to put a fiducial sticker on the top of the ball hitch so the software knows exactly where to back to. With automatic steering and the existing backup camera it is a matter of the software to find the target.
     

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