Entrant Profile

Alvin Wirthlin

Location: Allen, TX United States

Company: Intellihitch Systems, LLC

Profession: Engineer/Designer

Number of times previously entering contest: 1

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.