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Bosch puts the brakes on caravans

Sway my way: Bosch has held a demonstration of its new trailer sway technology at an event in Victoria.

New Bosch system helps eliminate fish-tailing, jack-knifing of trailers, campervans

6 Oct 2017

By IAN PORTER

BOSCH Australia has unveiled a locally developed stability control and anti-lock braking system for trailers, caravans and camper trailers that will control sway and prevent jack-knifing at highway speeds.

The system – unveiled during a demonstration day at the Anglesea, Victoria proving ground – will be made in Australia as an original equipment part for fitting to trailers equipped with electric brakes when they are produced in North America and Australia.

The demonstration at Anglesea involved a 2.5-tonne SUV towing a twin-axle, three-tonne caravan. In the test, the driver had to change lanes at 100km/h and then change lanes back, as if avoiding an obstacle on the highway.

Even though the tow vehicle’s brakes were not being used, it was clear that the brakes on the caravan were being applied rapidly and selectively to keep the caravan under control.

The trailer sway control (TSC) system has a sensor on each wheel and takes 25 readings a second to monitor the wheel speeds. The system also includes a motion sensor to detect sideways movement.

Bosch Australia president Gavin Smith said the system will be released to the market early next year and will go into production at the company’s Clayton site as soon as orders are received.

Bosch is communicating with trailer manufacturers to let them know the system will soon be available.

“We have been working on this for two years with a combined team of two dozen engineers in both software and hardware,” Mr Smith told GoAuto during the demonstration.

“We have taken the most efficient approach that we can where we are reusing as much as already exists from our passenger car work and also using the mechanical concept from another system.

“The ECU (electronic control unit) is in a black metal housing that is carried over from another project so we didn’t have to engineer or retool that, but all the brains inside, the circuit board is new design, new development, and goes into production in our electronics facility.”

He said the system unveiled at Anglesea was the first of a range of similar products suited for different trailer applications, including yacht trailers with hydraulic braking systems.

Mark Jackman, who had direct oversight of the development as regional president of vehicle safety and chassis systems, said the company had already engaged the Victorian state government about the system’s importance as a safety system on the state’s roads.

He was asked whether it was possible the system could be made compulsory on trailers, as it had on all other vehicles.

“That’s an interesting question. We are working with the government, who have expressed interest in at least recommending it. That has to be evidence-based so we are working with them now to provide the evidence around which kind of accidents would be avoided. Discussions have already begun.”

Before the demonstration, Mr Jackman said caravan and trailer accidents were a costly drain on the community.

“One of our major insurance companies has had more than $19 million worth of caravan insurance claims in the last year alone, and that’s just one of the majors. There are opportunities to reduce that significantly.

“In that $19 million, there is a category called single vehicle accidents, and in more than 80 per cent of those the caravan is unrepairable, a complete write-off.

“You can imagine, with five tonnes of vehicle and caravan, you are going to have a very big accident because the caravan is not designed to operate upside down, and unfortunately, that can happen.”

No firm cost estimates were available, but Mr Jackman indicated that the TSC system would be competitive with the $1000 cost of the first anti-lock braking systems for cars several years ago.

Local caravan-makers had shown keen interest in the system, which has been developed under collaboration with Dextor AL-KO, a manufacturer of caravan axles in the US.

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