Whacky New Ideas

Sam Richards — 21 February 2019
Camper explores a few bold concepts popping up in the towing-sphere.

When new technology comes along, we often dismiss it as a little bit of tech-savvy showmanship, destined to fall flat on its face once the initial novelty has worn off. 

Sometimes, that prediction comes true; think of bins piled high with 3D TV glasses and scratch-activated scent cards intended to enhance cinematic experiences. But on other occasions, a piece of sci-fi tech comes along that, despite the initial naysaying, takes its niche by storm.

This whole trend of denial is encapsulated in an alleged quote from Ken Olsen, a co-founder of the Digital Equipment Corporation and a crucial figure in the development of computers: “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” 

With this cautionary prelude in mind, consider these new ideas popping up in the towing world. Could they be the way of the future? Or are they indeed a flash in the pan?


FUTURELIGHT FABRIC 

Opening up 2019 with a bang, BMW Group subsidiary Designworks paired with The North Face to release a new camper trailer concept, drawing upon a unique material. 

This material, an innovation by The North Face called FUTURELIGHT™, is designed with ‘nanospinning’ technology to be breathable and waterproof. The design process creates very small ‘nano-sized’ holes, which allows it to be porous to permit airflow and venting, while still rejecting rain.

The material will first go on sale in The North Face’s Fall product line, but the intention of the whole project was to demonstrate how it could be used beyond the contained world of apparel. In the newly developed concept trailer, it stretches over a geodosic dome to form an outer shell of fabric, with the minimalist framework allowing the camper to be lightweight as well.

It was an interesting collaboration, bringing together businesses with little history with camper trailers to create just that; in the words of Designworks LA Studio Director, Laura Robin: “Thinking about extreme performance in new and unexpected ways from our experience of working across multiple industries helped us to provide consumers with a unique and never before seen insight into the very heart of the material and its key attributes.”

The product was unveiled to the public at the global consumer electronics tradeshow, via virtual reality headsets. The show ran in Las Vegas from January 7 to 11 and, for that period, it was the flashiest thing in town. 


INVISIBLE TRAILER 

If you own a traditional camper trailer, there’s no real need for it to be invisible; but if you own a hybrid, you may be interested in a fresh technology appearing in the States, that, thanks to its clever use of cameras, effectively makes your RV see-through.

The technology is referred to as a ProGrade Trailering System, and is in fact a property of the towing vehicle rather than the RV; it’s appeared on the 2019 Sierra Light Duty pickup already, and is set to appear (or disappear, as it were) on the 2020 Sierra Heavy Duty pickup.

The technology on the 2020 Sierra HD will include 15 camera views, including the showstopper, a view that allows the driver to effectively see through a trailer that they are towing – not over their shoulder (that would require witch magic), but on a large screen on the dash. How does it work? By use of a camera on the towing vehicle’s tailgate and a camera on the trailer’s rear.

The camera system is intended to optimise the driver’s view around both the vehicle and compatible trailers, thereby helping them out in parking, merging and turning. 

As put by Jaclyn McQuaid, the vehicle chief engineer of heavy duty trucks, “Trailering is the most important consideration for Sierra Heavy Duty customers, and the new features and technologies in the 2020 Sierra HD make it easier than ever to hitch a trailer and tow it confidently. We’ve developed this new truck to offer the greatest trailering experience ever offered by GMC.”

Although this concept isn’t new in itself, it is fairly new to the market. As it stands, the tech isn’t available in Australia, but Holden exists as a potential inroad, given its new importing model and the fact it is owned by General Motors, the same company which makes the Sierra.

This article originally appeared in the February issue of Camper magazine.

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