Patent Number: 6,252,497

Title: Coupling alignment warning system

Abstract: The coupling alignment warning system (CAWS) of the instant invention is designed to provide the driver of a towing unit, e.g., a commercial truck, with visual and/or audible cues that indicate whether the towing unit is aligned relative to a towed unit for proper engagement of the coupling components mounted thereon, including a fifth wheel hitch on the towing unit and a king pin on the trailer. The CAWS combines a laser light source and a series of sensors with a reflective target to provide alignment information to the user. In particular, the system combines a low-power laser diode mounted on the towing unit with a retro-reflective target that is attached, preferably temporarily, on the towed unit. The target will continuously return positive coupling alignment information back to the sensors as long as laser light impinges upon the target, i.e., as long as target acquisition is maintained. The sensors transmit detection signals to a processing unit that includes a microprocessor and relay. The microprocessor is programmed to calculate a threshold level of light that is based on sensed ambient light signals. In operation, the microprocessor decodes the detected light and determines whether the detected light level reaches the threshold level of light. If so, the CAWS indicates to the user that target acquisition has been achieved, and thus, that the towing unit is aligned with the towed unit for positive coupling. The microprocessor also controls the relay, thus controlling the delivery of power to the laser light source so that the system can continually compute an updated threshold level of light based on the ambient light in the surrounding operating environment. As a result, the system minimizes the chance of triggering on false light signals, notwithstanding varying ambient light conditions. The CAWS is particularly useful in zero or low visibility conditions because it can be used in conjunction with mirrors and external reference points to provide reliable position information to the user.

Inventors: Dupay; Steven C. (Holland, MI), Schutt; Randy L. (Holland, MI)

Assignee: Holland Hitch Company

International Classification: B62D 53/12 (20060101); B62D 53/00 (20060101); G08B 021/00 ()

Expiration Date: 06/26/2018