Look Mum No Hands: A Car That Reverse Parks Your Trailer For You

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Whether you’re new to towing trailers or not, you’ll appreciate that reverse parking a trailer is a feat worthy of admiration – applause even. Together, the towing vehicle and trailer become an articulated vehicle and the required input for manoeuvring backwards is largely counterintuitive. Furthermore, the trailer’s rearwards direction of turn changes depending on which side of the towing vehicle’s centre-line it sits. Understandably, drivers with less experience baulk at the prospect of having to manage this – especially in front of an audience.

We’ve discussed, in detail, how to reverse a trailer on Without A Hitch and the closest we’ve come to some kind of reversing automation is using an electric caravan mover to move a caravan independently of the towing vehicle. However, there hasn’t been a fully automated solution to the problem – until now.

A new solution

Volkswagen drivers must do a lot of towing – at least they must in Europe – because the company has seen fit to include fancy trailer reversing technology in their 2015 Passat. Imaginatively called Trailer Assist, the reversing aid works similarly to automatic reverse parking, in that all the steering is handled by the car’s brain, with throttle and brake input from the driver.

The driver merely dials in the desired trailer angle via the side mirror controls, which are mounted on the door armrest. Simultaneously, the trailer’s current and intended angle is indicated with a graphic on the instrument display and the on the reversing camera display.

Best of all, because it’s all handled from the driver’s seat, most onlookers will assume the driver has perfectly executed the manoeuvre alone.

The first all-new Passat in 10 years, the 2015 Volkswagen Passat is expected to land here in spring 2015, with prices starting somewhere around the current $38,990, plus on-roads.

Audi has also thought of trailer-loving drivers with its new Audi Q7. As is the case with the Passat, its ‘trailer assistant’ will automatically reverse park a trailer in response to a driver’s input; it also stabilises the trailer and tow vehicle if you’re driving backwards in a straight line, and provides a warning if the trailer is likely to jackknife. However, this comes at a cost: the new Audi (which is due in Australia in late 2015) is priced at around $100,000.

The future of parking technology

If you’re not looking for a new car then you may have to wait a bit longer, but there are some solutions on the horizon for nervous reversers. Australian company Reverse Alert is developing reversing sensors that can be fitted to the back of trailers or caravans. When the sensors detect an object, the towing vehicle’s brakes are automatically applied – handy for those tight parks!

As for that self-parking trailer? Well, you might just have to wait a bit longer…

If the Passat or Audi isn’t for you, what is? Here’s a bit more on choosing the right kind of towing vehicle


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