MemberMay 10, 2022 at 7:17 pm
I’m a part time rver and occasionally I like to tow my car behind the rv. My current car is capable of being towed without a trailer. Is there a possibility that this feature could be incorporated into the Aptera?
MemberMay 10, 2022 at 10:38 pm
The standard answer is “NO.”
That said, looking at my crystal ball, I see some enterprising entrepreneur noting that while you might not be able to flat tow it but if you could turn it into a self-powered ‘trailer’ designed to follow your RV as if it were on a tight leash, it would not only follow your RV with little or no penalty for ‘pulling’ the Aptera (because it is providing the acceleration and maintaining the speed from the magic ‘add-on’ app that lets the Aptera, apparently tethered by a hitch, inches behind your RV, mimicking every move, turn, takeoff and stop as if it were occupied.
Basically, you’re turning the Aptera into one of those kids robotic toys that follows the tyke around the room.
To me this kind of innovation, while it has application on the Aptera, is widely applicable to all kinds of powered trailer mobiles. Presumably you have a module that you put in the towing vehicle, you place the other in the towed vehicle and the one follows the other with the driver of the towing vehicle being responsible. (Who, after all is responsible if an autonomously driven vehicle?)
There is no cost to the towing vehicle – Ice vehicles don’t have increased emissions from towing because t he vehicle avoids the drag of the trailer/towed vehicle as it is self-powered.)
And, presumably this could also count as a poor-man’s self-driving if, perchance, there were a service to guide the driver who associates with other drivers on the road from Atlanta to Birmingham. You just find a car-train to join, hook on, let the car follow while you kick back.
Imagine if the lead vehicle were a cybertruck that could also give your car a charge while rolling down the road as well. (The follow me app idea works better if it is open source, non-proprietary and even portable.)
So, like I said at the first of this response, “No.” No manufacturer including Aptera will say their EV can be towed all wheels down behind a RV. Whether that is because they are concerned that with regen, the battery will be over-charged, over heated and burst into fire or whether they’re just fans of Nancy Reagan’s philosophy of just saying “NO” or some other reason, the fact is all those prohibitions go away if it is mobility is self-powered.
MemberMay 11, 2022 at 6:31 am
I’ve thought about an invisible tether as well. It would be nice if the answer to flat towing was just a software upgrade.
MemberMay 11, 2022 at 8:23 am
Virtual tethers won’t happen until true Level 4 or Level 5 becomes available, the regulators will never allow it. The problem with a follow only system is that it would become a hazard if the following vehicle became separated from the lead vehicle which could happen for any number of reasons. If that vehicle is capable of driving itself then it’s no problem but if not then what does it do? You can’t have trailers stopping dead in the middle of a highway and if they don’t have self driving capability they can’t get over to the breakdown lane by themselves assuming that there even is a breakdown lane. When we get Level 4 or 5 and it’s widely deployed then having virtual trains offers up a lot of possibilities. If cars could operate as virtual trains that ran bumper to bumper then you would get an immediate increase in highway capacity, as well an increase in energy efficiency.
In the near term a tethered self powered trailer could work. The trailing vehicle would be coupled using a trailer hitch and a wired connection. It would differ from a passive trailer in that it would power it’s wheels using controls that come from the lead vehicle instead of just being pulled. Railroads have been using multiple locomotives in this fashion for many decades, this is not new technology.
MemberMay 11, 2022 at 8:54 am
A hard wired hitch wouldn’t be a bad idea either but that would require physical changes to the Aptera. I mean there are no actual anchor points much less electrical inputs to control the Aptera.
If you’re suggesting a self propelled trailer and putting the Aptera on it. That’s what I don’t want. They take up too much space.
MemberMay 11, 2022 at 9:38 am
I’m talking about the general concept, it’s not Aptera specific. An Aptera or any EV could work this way if they were to add a hitch to the front, it’s highly unlikely that they would offer this but from an engineering point of view it’s certainly possible.
For now if you want to tow an Aptera behind an RV the solution is to put it on a trailer and tow that.
MemberMay 11, 2022 at 11:42 am
I agree, virtual tethers are not going to happen anytime soon.
Because of the natural chaos associated with most human activity, you actually want a physical connection – a ‘hitch’ and safety chain – so when the trailer separates from the towing vehicle it acts as if it were a ‘regular’ unpowered trailer and causes a wreck (or not) because the world is an imperfect realm with real and imagined risks.
I do have a little trouble with the analogy of diesel locomotives operating in tandem largely because they all roll on rails which guide them … It isn’t like the first locomotive would be able to pass a moose test but the second following one would follow the first off the rails and around the obstacle in its effort to avoid a moose.
But I do agree, powered trailers are more common, seem quite effective at maintaining the operational efficiencies of the towing vehicle (no/small decline in gas mileage vs. massive decline) and operate reasonably safely on the public roads.
I think any modern vehicle can be adapted to radio control operation. This adaptation is relatively simple and RC has been around long before Radio Shack when bankrupt in the early ’90s.
Given all the complexities of full self-driving; its requirements not just for recognition of objects, but the logic to make sense and plan driving maneuvers given a multitude of those objects, some of which break rules and react inconsistently.
I know Tesla is trying to commercialize such a product (FSD) and they may be able to do it but at what cost? I think they equip every Tesla with the capability (cameras, sensors, computer-brain with AI (?) in the car (or is some of this done in the cloud?) … but does this mean that in addition to a battery, motor and all, you’ve got to add a $5000 for this computer? Is anyone going to put a self-driving app on a trailer if the computer to run it costs more than the trailer and power components?
The reason that now is the time for the powered trailer (as opposed to self-driving trailer) is more of today’s modern cars offer such RC friendly items as electric power steering, electronic throttle, electrically activated brakes all built in and just asking for slave status.
As far as trailers, most state laws require only a hitch, safety chain and running light to placate the farmers who have been known to tow some pretty awful contraptions and some pretty innovative ones as well.
You did grasp the size of the elephant in the room when you wrote: “If cars could operate as virtual trains that ran bumper to bumper then you would get an immediate increase in highway capacity, as well an increase in energy efficiency.”
The point is, I don’t think we have to or even should wait on self-driving for that functionality.
I mean, think bigger than Aptera in this context. Imagine an articulated mini-bus comprised of say anywhere from two to ten Canoo rolling mini-buses all ‘tethered together’ like an articulated city bus. The idea is the cost per mile for the transportation is much lower than a city bus and operators can add ‘modules’ or remove them depending on the time of day or rider demand.
My point is that I think we don’t have to do this self-driving thing with a $10,000 AI computer on every EV and ICE car because every non-self-driving car poses a risk to the self-driving kind because of our collective unpredictability.
If we have any intelligence at all, we have to know that we’ve deluded ourselves about climate change and we are past the point of no return in regard our future issues with Co2 concentrations and the best we can hope for is some kind of mitigation.
I don’t really think we can afford to wait for AI to solve our problem (It won’t); rather we need to do everything we can to mitigate the burning of fossil fuels while such meager efforts can still have an effect.
And maybe, if we’re lucky, we can in a decade, transition from expert drivers pulling car trains to A.I. drivers who have been programmed to be averse to the concept of unions and go into cardiac arrest at the mention of the word ‘teamsters.’
Seems the ultra rich like the idea of AI slaves over which they can assuage their delicate egos with illusions of master of the universe superiority.
So, by 2050, what percentage of the current 1.44 billion motorized vehicles in the world, will have AI piloting? All, half, 20% or will this AI thing be another one-percenter perk?
Personally, on such questions, I default to the ’80-20 rule logic.’
The dream of AI-self-driving proponents is that it will so radically transform surface transportation that the one-percent – fixed on this ideal of money from rental investments takes little work but provides great compensation – will own 80 percent of the vehicles that they rent out constantly as their personal robotic taxi service from which they earn easy money in what promises to be a ‘rental’ society.
Really, it is kind of like the middle ages when the nobleman owned the land and the surfs worked it for free in exchange for the rent. For a real-world reference of what such systems look like in more modern times, consider colonial India before WWII. The movie Ghandi gives a good rendition of the arrogance and hubris of conservative authoritarian regimes and how that elemental conservatism embodied in the English Crown asserts the right to self-deal in the interest of the leaders of the commonwealth. Putin’s excursions in Ukraine provide another example of this arrogance and hubris.
Maybe it is I who is showing conservatism by being dismissive of AI as the solver of all problems human. Believing that it can is not a source for hope; believing that it might help is at best a hedge.
We need to learn how to cooperate and a cheap, better than toy-like follow me program for powered trailers coupled with a hitch and safety chain creates opportunities for cooperation that don’t exist today.
MemberMay 11, 2022 at 4:56 pm
I mentioned this in the previous thread on this subject. Assuming you can get to and easily disconnect the power connectors going to the hub motors (the equivalent of removing the drive shaft on an ICE vehicle), the Aptera should be able to be flat towed.
MemberMay 13, 2022 at 11:57 am
The person who designs an aftermarket towing rig for this baby is probably gonna do pretty well for themself.
MemberMay 13, 2022 at 12:58 pm
If you only have hub motors on the front wheels, wouldn’t a tow dolly work?
MemberMay 13, 2022 at 2:38 pm
You’d probably have to get a custom built one. The tow dolly from U-Haul is only 83.5″ wide between the fenders narrower than the front wheels.