Is Toyota Building a Deploy-able Robotic Tow Hitch?

It sounds like Toyota wants to build a deploy-able, robotic, self-aligning tow hitch system

Will Toyota build a deploy-able robotic tow hitch system? The most advanced hitch alignment setups consist of augmented camera views/alignment/sensors with remote steering. Toyota may be looking to take it a step further.

It appears that the patent below will allow for a deploy-able, robotic tow hitch (one that may move itself to assist alignment). On top of that, an automated system may assist the driver to align the truck and hitch to hook up to the trailer. It sounds possible if this patent submission from Toyota is interpenetrated in one way.

Gen-Y BOSS torsion-flex hitch
Imagine: having the hitch deploy on its own, move into position and the truck line itself up – all to hook up a hitch? It could be cool. (Image: TFLtruck)

The patent application was filed on September 4, 2019 and published on July 2, 2020. It was filed by Toyota Research Institute, Inc. Best of all, the subject heading of the filing is, “Devices including deploy-able hitch assemblies and autonomous engagement systems incorporating the same.”

Publication number: 20200207167 Abstract: 

A robotic system that includes a body, a hitch assembly coupled to the body, and a sensor array coupled to the body. The robotic system includes a processor and operating logic containing programming instructions thereon that, when executed, causes the processor to detect, via the sensor array, a location of a vehicle relative to the body. The programming instructions of the operating logic further cause the processor to detect, via the sensor array, a position of a hitch receiver along the vehicle and move the body toward the vehicle to position the hitch assembly proximate to the hitch receiver. The programming instructions of the operating logic further cause the processor to move the hitch assembly relative to the body and in alignment with the hitch receiver and engage the hitch assembly to the hitch receiver to securely couple the body to the vehicle.

2021 toyota tundra prototype crew cab grille mad max
2021 Toyota Tundra crew cab.
It’s possible that this system is meant for the next generation Tundra. (Images: TFLtruck)

I think this patent leaves more questions than answers, but the idea of a hitch moving around on its own is thought provoking to say the least. Most of the tech is already being used in one way or another. Maybe, it’s just a matter of combining and applying the technology to work in unison?

If they do build this “deploy-able robotic tow hitch system” we want to play with it ASAP!

What do you think? Is this a cool idea, or is it too complex?

Speaking of towing…

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.