Semcon, a technology company, says it used an all-women team of product developers to create a concept for a smart, user-friendly trailer connection solution that is also futureproof for autonomous cars. The company's new towing concept, known as Automatic Trailer Connection (ATC), connects itself to the trailer while the driver stays in the car.

“The wonderful thing is that this concept is based on the smart systems that cars are already equipped with nowadays. Given the vast amount of money that’s been spent on product development in the automotive industry over the past 80 years, it’s strange that nobody has done anything about towbars when so many people find it to be a complicated solution. New perspectives can sometimes be needed,” said Sofie Askenbom, project manager for the Add Perspectives team.

How the ATC concept works: When the car and trailer are about 2 m (6.6 ft) apart, the car’s camera sensor can identify the trailer and connection begins. The driver presses “Auto Attach” on the in-car display, and the car reverses autonomously toward the trailer. The car and trailer are both connected to the cloud, which allows them to communicate and position themselves correctly. Instead of a towbar, there is a socket in the car’s bumper that secures and powers the trailer. No more cables are needed, and the company says it is just like plugging in an ordinary device, and the connection is made autonomously by the car itself.

A mechanical locking mechanism inside the car’s socket secures the trailer. The in-car display then provides information such as the weight and balance of the load, speed limits, and brake lights. The trailer’s jockey wheel is retracted automatically via an electric motor, which is also used to adjust the height during the actual connection sequence. Then the driver is ready to drive off.

“This concept was mainly devised to demonstrate what new perspectives can bring, but we’re hoping car and trailer manufacturers may be interested in taking it further in future,” said Sofie Askenbom.

Team members for the ATC concept were Sara Nilsson, User Experience; Sofia Elmestrand, Design Engineering; Ida Borenstein, Communication; Malin Bengtsson, Design Engineering; Åsa Rudberg, Product Design; Sofie Askenbom, Project Management/Digital Development; Anna Lindahl, User Experience; Laura Masaracchia, Machine Learning; and Lovisa Wargsjö, Design Engineering.