Intelligent Hitch for Measuring Both Trailer Weight and Tongue Weight

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A novel hitch system for remotely determining the tongue weight and total weight of a towed vehicle and other parameters without the use of a scale is provided. The system as currently constructed includes a transducer capable of measuring 0-1,500 pounds tongue weight in one-pound increments and a portable display for wirelessly receiving the information. The display can be associated with a smart device such as a smart phone or smart pad.

Sensors are strategically located on the transducer for generating signals relating to trailer tongue weight, pull forces exerted during towing, acceleration, tilt, etc. This information is sent to an app downloaded on the smart device. The app uses the information to dynamically display the measured weight of the trailer tongue during loading, as well as the calculated gross vehicle weight of the trailer. The gross vehicle weight is calculated by pulling the trailer a few feet ahead and measuring the pull forces and acceleration. The need for pulling the trailer to a publicly available scale is thus eliminated. The ratio of the trailer tongue weight to gross trailer weight is displayed. If the ratio is outside of acceptable safety standards, the operator is notified to adjust the load prior to towing.

It is anticipated that the system will also be capable of determining whether or not the load is balanced from side to side, as well as top-heavy, and alert the operator of the unbalanced condition.

The app accepts data related to the tow vehicle and trailer including vehicle type and maximum safe towing capacity, the trailer type, the load capacity of the vehicle tires and trailer tires, as well as other factors. This information is used in conjunction with the measurement data to determine if the trailer and vehicle combination are within safe towing parameters.

The app is capable of walking the user through the hitching, loading and towing processes, warning when the trailer is improperly loaded, whether or not the trailer exceeds its rated weight, whether or not the proper tongue weight to trailer weight ratio has been achieved, and verifying whether or not the vehicle is capable of towing the determined load following preset automotive safety guidelines for the vehicle manufacturer. During towing, the app and transducer can continue working together to monitor conditions of the trailer and vehicle.

When a potentially unsafe towing condition occurs or is about to occur, including trailer sway, traveling at an unsafe speed, a shift in the load, etc., the operator is notified via the app. The transducer can be integrated into a draw-bar, the vehicle receiver hitch, or the trailer tongue.

The transducer can also serve as a black box by optionally collecting and storing data for review by rental companies, insurance adjusters, etc., to determine who may be at fault in an accident or break-down. The black box can also monitor whether a user has been operating within warranty conditions of the vehicle or trailer to determine breach of vehicle warranty.

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  • ABOUT THE ENTRANT

  • Name:
    Alvin Wirthlin
  • Type of entry:
    individual
  • Profession:
    Engineer/Designer
  • Number of times previously entering contest:
    1
  • Alvin is inspired by:
    The intelligent hitch design was inspired by a personal experience that almost ended in tragedy while moving my family. We were towing a rental trailer and as we began passing a semi-truck, the trailer started to sway violently from side to side. Fortunately, we were able to regain control of the trailer. That incident started me thinking about what went wrong. Was it the trailer? Was it because of a too heavy or uneven load? Were we towing too fast? Research into that area revealed that many lives are lost and millions of dollars in property damage are sustained each year because of similar incidents. One such incident involved a young college student traveling to her dorm several hundred miles away from home while towing a trailer. Her trailer started to sway, and control of the vehicle was lost. She never reached her destination. It was a terrible tragedy that most likely could have been avoided simply by providing more information related to the trailer load, which until now has not been readily available. One factor in determining if the trailer is safe for towing is the ratio of the tongue weight to gross trailer weight. Although there are other devices available for measuring tongue weight, they lack accuracy and are inconvenient to set up and use. The user must walk back and forth between the trailer and the hitch in order to view the trailer tongue weight during loading. It would be much more advantageous to dynamically view the information remotely on a smart device. None of these tongue weight sensors can measure trailer weight. Typically in order to determine the tongue to trailer weight ratio, the trailer must be towed to a publicly available scale and weighed. This is a time-consuming process and compromises safety if in fact the proper ratio has not been achieved prior to towing the trailer to the scale. My patent pending intelligent hitch solution overcomes these disadvantages by calculating the weight of the trailer while performing a typical maneuver to check the integrity of the hitch connection, i.e. when the vehicle and trailer are pulled a few feet ahead and stopped to confirm the tow ball is properly seated in the trailer tongue. This technology allows the sensors to determine acceleration and pull forces, and then calculates actual trailer weight. What inspires my designs? Providing technology that prevents or reduces unnecessary tragedy because of a lack of experience or lack of safety information that could otherwise be readily available.
  • Software used for this entry:
    SolidWorks, Alibre
  • Patent status:
    pending