With so many bewildering and downright fantastical automotive concepts premiering at the Consumer Electronics Show this time of year, it’s easy to feel downtrodden by the industry’s mobility shenanigans. Thankfully, CES still plays host to some genuinely interesting tech that might actually make your life a little easier.
For French automotive supplier Valeo, that meant showcasing a system that utilizes cameras and some very careful framing to effectively see through a towed object. Called the XtraVue Trailer system, the technology works in a similar fashion as the nanotechnology invisibility blanket under development by the U.S. military — just much simpler.
Rather than use an elaborate projective fabric that records and mimics whatever’s behind it, à la Predator, XtraVue uses traditional cameras fixed to the back of the vehicle and accompanying trailer and projects a composite image onto a large screen that’s easily visible to the driver.
By keying out areas obscured by the trailer, Valeo can effectively render it “invisible” to the person behind the wheel, creating downright sublime rearward visibility. Still, similar systems already exist on the market. Companies like Rear View Safety Inc. already offer dozens of solutions for those wanting a better sense of their surroundings whilst towing. What makes Valeo’s setup a little different is that its system creates a seemingly complete image when properly set up, even providing a basic outline of the trailer using a screen-within-a-screen effect.
XtraVue is supposed to work directly with a vehicle’s standard backup camera, using a secondary camera at the back of the trailer to fill in the gaps keyed out by the imaging software. We imagine the supplier wants to work directly with automakers to get this into factory vehicles, rather than take the aftermarket approach. However, the current demonstration does not have the system integrated into the car’s infotainment system.
Distortion will likely become a problem the larger and longer a trailer gets, at which point you might want to consider a multi-camera setup. But XtraVue looks impressive when used on a smaller rig. Based on footage provided but the supplier, we doubt spacial issues would only crop up in extremely tight quarters, but that’s a pretty inconsequential gripe considering the system will absolutely make towing safer.
Valeo also brought a couple of autonomous concepts to CES. One, a vehicle dubbed “Drive4U,” uses the company’s ultrasound, cameras, radars, and LiDAR systems in conjunction with artificial intelligence. While self-driving remains Drive4U’s ultimate goal, the supplier is also working on ways to control it from a distance. One of those is a remote control that syncs with the car’s functions, but an interesting alternative exists in the company’s Voyage XR, which creates a sort of virtual driving experience.
With Voyage XR, users can pop on a VR headset and manually control the car. It’s a fascinating concept, offering a potential glimpse into our very sedentary future.
Call us old fashioned if you must, but we’re slightly more fond of the invisible trailer idea.