Buyer's Guide: How smart tech is making towing safer
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For many of us, summer holidays mean we’ll be planning to hit the road for an eagerly awaited road trip with our boats, caravans or jet skis.
If you’re getting away with your prized possessions in tow, remember: one abrupt movement in a heavily loaded vehicle can throw you into all sorts of strife. Thankfully, car manufacturers have developed smart technology systems to help get you out of a tricky situation and make towing safer than ever before.
Trailer Stability Assist (TSA), also known as Electronic Trailer Sway Control, is designed to control individual wheel slip to correct potential fishtailing before there is an accident.
A trailer swerving from side to side can quickly upset the car and trailer combination. TSA systems determine when a trailer is starting to sway dangerously and correct the situation before it becomes uncontrollable.
This is achieved through a blend of reducing torque to individual wheels or actually braking individual wheels to bring the trailer and tow-vehicle back under control. The system also automatically warns drivers behind the vehicle by flashing a brake light on both the car and trailer.
Although similar to Electronic Stability Control (ESC), TSA is programmed differently. It is designed to detect yaw in the tow-vehicle and take specific corrective actions to eliminate trailer sway. Most ESC systems are not designed to detect such movement, nor take the correct actions to control both the trailer and tow-vehicle; so not all ESC equipped vehicles have TSA capabilities. It’s important to bear this in mind if you are looking to buy a vehicle equipped with this feature.
Active Rollover Protection (ARP) is a system that recognises impending rollover and selectively applies brakes to resist it.
The ARP employs systems that are already fitted in vehicles, such as Electronic Stability Control, Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS), traction control and yaw control — a feature that uses an active differential to transfer torque to the wheels that have the best grip on the road.
Active Rollover Protection works by detecting excessive lateral forces.
This situation typically appears when a vehicle driven at speed performs a rapid turn.
When ARP detects a possible rollover it responds by quickly activating the appropriate brake in efforts to counteract a roll by way of the ABS system.
In efforts to mitigate the chance of a roll, the on-board computer uses data from an inertia measuring system to determine when a vehicle is about to have a rollover scenario.
Rollovers can occur when the vehicle is in motion or stationary; which means inertia measurements are done independent of a vehicle’s speed and yaw rate.
When the computer determines the vehicle is at risk of rolling, it calculates the direction of roll and on some systems triggers the active suspension system. The force produced in the suspension reacts to oppose the roll, and keeps the vehicle safe.
Although these features are there to reduce the likelihood of an accident, they’re not magic.
In other words, you shouldn’t expect these systems to prevent an accident if you’re driving at an excessive speed or not driving sensibly, or if you’re out in extreme road or weather conditions.
Of course, keeping to the speed limit and towing sensibly are the best safety practices, even if your vehicle is crammed with a multitude of fantastic safety assistive features.