In June 2021, we were invited by AL-KO to attend the launch of the AL-KO Tow Assist at Sandown Raceway in Melbourne. The Tow assist is a three-part safety package that includes ABS, as well as sway mitigation and lane change assistance and is set to become the next generation in active safety braking technology for Caravans, Campers and trailers.
Partnering with Bosch, a leader in automotive safety technology, has seen this automotive level of safety brought to the RV market.
We spoke with Ergun Kirmaci from AL-KO International to tell us more about this exciting and revolutionary technology, as well as questioned Ken Nizam from Roadstar Caravans and John Chant from Gateway Caravans to get their views and insight from a manufacturing and dealer perspective.
What Is It?
Tow Assist is a joint collaboration between AL-KO Australia, Bosch Australia and Dexter in the USA, to bring the most advanced automotive level safety systems to caravans and trailers.
It’s the world’s first system to feature ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) in addition to Sway Mitigation and Lane Change Control.
Why Does It Matter?
Tow Assist is a big step forward in caravan safety - It adds another layer of safety to your trailer by maintaining traction under emergency braking while also monitoring for sway and sharp movements, like in emergency swerves, and applying the trailers’ brakes without driver input to maintain control. And that’s important for maintaining the safety of you and your family when towing.
How Does It Do It?
For the ABS - Inside the 12in drum brakes, a wheel speed sensor reads notches inside the drum to monitor how fast the wheels (up to six in the current system) are spinning in relation to each other. Should one start to lock up, the brakes will pulse on/off faster and with more control than a driver can exert. This means the trailer's tyres will not skid under heavy braking giving ultimate control to the driver to react and steer the trailer during braking.
For Sway Mitigation - An inertia sensor monitors the behaviour of the trailer and applies the brakes. Tow Assist is able to independently brake each wheel of the trailer, to reduce sway.
For Lane Change Control - Using the same system as the Sway Mitigation, it takes it a step further with increased sensitivity to pick up on large individual movements, like an emergency swerve to avoid an animal, and applies the brakes on the wheels of the trailer to reduce the chance of a jack-knife scenario.
Can Tow Assist Be Retro Fitted To My Caravan?
Currently, AL-KO has only released Tow Assist for new caravan builds. There are future plans to introduce the product for retrofit, but it is most economical to have it added to the build of your new caravan as the brakes and hub drums are specific to Tow Assist.
What Will It Cost?
At a retail level, Tow Assist is expected to add $2500-$3000 to the cost of a new caravan.
Ask your dealer if Tow Assist is available on your next build.
There is one more interesting bit of tech in Tow Assist. The wheel speed sensors can also measure distance travelled so through a proprietary app, users can check on the distance a trailer has travelled with real precision. This is important for owners with scheduled service requirements and anyone that lends or leases their vans to monitor distances travelled for servicing and/or hire agreements.
Also interesting is the positioning AL-KO are taking with Tow Assist. ABS is mandatory in all passenger cars, light trucks and even motorcycles now. It has been revolutionary in vehicle safety and in reducing accidents. AL-KO is taking the position that ABS should become mandatory in the near to distant future of trailers and should that happen it is already positioned to be the leader in offering solutions to manufacturers.
Where Can I Find Out More?
Watch our video interview or head to AL-KO’s dedicated Tow Assist website by searching for AL-KO Tow Assist or visit www.alko.com.au/tow-assist