RV manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers offer a variety of systems that can help make motorhome travel safer
Driving down the highway, you activate the turn signal. As you glance in the mirror, you notice that the familiar triangle silhouette is glowing red, indicating that a vehicle is in your blind spot. Traffic begins to slow suddenly, and the vehicle issues an audible alert, then begins braking on its own. Later that evening, you become weary, and as your mind wanders, so does your vehicle … into the adjacent lane. Fortunately, lane-keeping assist alerts you to the situation, then gently pulls the steering wheel back into the direction of travel.
Active and passive safety systems like these are standard equipment in many of today’s mid-priced and up passenger vehicles. But until recently, even the most basic safety features have been absent from the vehicles that arguably could use them the most: motorhomes. While it is true that Class B and Class C motorhome chassis typically offer some safety features, they are still well behind the automotive industry and have been practically nonexistent in Class A motorhomes.
Considering many new RVers haven’t driven anything larger than the family SUV, providing them with technologies that can protect their family and investment makes sense, but the difficulty and expense involved with implementing these technologies has made for a slow progression. Thankfully, that’s starting to change. “A little more than four years ago, we began a push to get involved with events that attract RVers, such as Hershey [RV show], Tampa Super Show and RVX, so we could educate consumers,” explained Vanya Banjac, marketing manager for Mobileye, a crash-avoidance system used by many automotive manufacturers. “Over the last few years, our market has grown 25-35%.”
A global company owned by tech giant Intel, the Mobileye system offers a suite of six safety features that include Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure, Headway/Following Time Monitoring & Warning, Pedestrian and Cyclist Collision Warning, Speed Limit Indicator and Intelligent High Beam Control. But unlike many of the safety systems in newer cars, the Mobileye system can be retrofitted to older motorhomes as well.
Currently, Mobileye is offered in luxury coaches from Tiffin and Newmar, and was added as an available feature to complement Spartan Motors’ comprehensive Advanced Protection System (APS) that the company offers on its motorhome chassis. APS is engineered and manufactured in the U.S. and is comprised of six key sub-systems that include collision mitigation with forward warning and active braking; electronic stability control; adaptive cruise control; lane-departure warning; tire-pressure monitoring; and Spartan Safe Haul, a chassis-integrated air braking system for towed vehicles. As of this writing, APS is offered as a complete system, but its features are available individually to suit the coachbuilder’s requirements. As a result, it’s likely that crash-avoidance systems like these will gradually work their way down into lower-cost models, much the way they have in the automotive industry.
Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) also offers a proprietary suite of safety systems called RoadWatch. Available on FCCC’s popular XC and XL chassis, RoadWatch includes Adaptive Cruise Control, radar-based Collision Mitigation with Forward Warning & Active Braking, Electronic Stability Controls, Roll Stability Control and Automatic Traction Control.
RoadWatch features and components can also be ordered individually by the coachbuilder.
“There are several manufacturers currently offering RoadWatch as an option on their models, and we’re working with several more to make it an option on some of their models beginning next year,” said Bryan Henke, manager of product marketing at FCCC.
To better display the abundance of visual warnings, as well as camera views, navigation and other features, both chassis manufacturers offer a digital dash to complement their safety systems. Designed in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz, FCCC’s OptiView is a fully integrated, all-digital LCD instrument cluster inspired by the current S-Class dash, according to FCCC. Spartan’s digital dash allows the user to toggle the navigation display from the infotainment screen (to the right of the steering wheel) to the digital dash, where it is front and center. Both screens are compatible with each respective company’s 360-degree camera system, which can eliminate blind spots when changing lanes, backing or parking.
RV manufacturers have often been resistant to offer new technologies or features in their products, claiming that customers won’t pay extra for them and instead will buy another, less expensive brand. Thankfully, FCCC and Spartan maintain that their systems are being well received by coach manufacturers, and that consumers don’t seem to mind paying for them. “They don’t think about it as ‘paying extra’ at all,” said Henke. “They see what RoadWatch provides them — increased safety, coach protection, peace of mind — as priceless.”
Moreover, camera systems are becoming a popular option at the manufacturer and aftermarket levels as a cost-effective solution that makes driving easier and reduces the chances of an accident. For example, the ProViu ASL360 Camera System by Continental is a 360-degree camera system that allows the driver to monitor the entire vehicle and its surroundings at a single glance. Four wide-angle micro-cameras monitor the front, rear and sides of the vehicle, displaying video feeds as a single panoramic stream on a 7-inch display. The system offers a choice of angles, including top-down bird’s-eye, 180-degree, specific focus single views and multiple split screen, according to the company. It is designed for easy installation on any type of RV, including motorhomes, trailers and truck campers. As an option, consumers can also add Continental’s DVR to the ProViu system, which can record up to four video feeds simultaneously to twin SD cards with up to 256 GB of memory. It can also record vehicle speed and features a G-sensor to log acceleration at the time of the recording. Think of it as a comprehensive “dash cam” that could be useful in the event of an accident.
Continental also offers its VDO 7-inch Quad Display Monitor with two side-mount cameras and one Mini Camera with parking guidelines, as well as a simpler system consisting of a 5.6-inch color display that is easier to mount in crowded cockpits. Enclosed in a vibration-resistant, 100% waterproof housing, the camera uses infrared LEDs for increased vision at night. RV owners have multiple mounting choices and configurations that can be easily customized to fit their specific application needs, according to Continental.
Furrion recently introduced its Vision S system and a new Wi-Fi transmitter, boasting limitless mounting combinations with up to four camera views displayed on a high-definition monitor. With a 180-degree viewing angle, infrared night vision, integrated microphones and built-in marker/signal lights, Furrion’s Vision S system is designed to provide RVers the ease of use and safety in one complete package. With the addition of the Furrion Wi-Fi transmitter, users can now transmit images to their smart devices as well.
The Vision S observation system is wireless and is available with a 7-inch, 5-inch or 4.3-inch high-resolution display. The 7-inch display is capable of showing up to four camera images at once and allows the user to enlarge any image on the touch screen.
MITO Corp. offers its own line of camera systems called PerimeterView. The top-of-the-line PerimeterView 360 consists of four 185-degree Super Wide-Angle Cameras that feed into the internal ECU, which allows users to view side, rear or front cameras independently or combined as a high-resolution seamless aerial panoramic image in real time.
“PerimeterView 360 gives drivers a sweeping view of the perimeter of their vehicle and allows them to scan ‘Danger Zones’ RV drivers generally cannot see in order to give them the confidence and assurance needed to maneuver safely,” said Rod Hire, VP of product development for MITO Corp. “The intelligent and powerful ECU can be tied to the vehicle chassis in order to show priority views when reverse or left/right turn signals are sent and now features capabilities to record video output with add-on DVR hardware.”
In addition to a lower-cost three-point camera system, MITO also offers a PerimeterView Blindspot Detection/Lane Change Warning system for motorhome applications. Through an interior warning light and audible warning, the system alerts the driver to a vehicle present within a 200-foot range when traveling. Lane Change Assist is triggered by the turn signal and lets the driver know through an audible alert if there is a car present in the direction of the lane change or if there is a vehicle coming into the lane from behind.
The proliferation of safety products for motorhomes seems like a win for everyone. Safety is selling, but in the end, it’s the RV owner who profits.
The Pressure is On
The Firestone Tire/Ford Explorer debacle of 2000 brought to light the importance of correct tire inflation pressure, culminating in the factory installation of TPMS systems in all cars, trucks and SUVs after September 2007 as part of the government’s TREAD Act. Motorhomes and towables, however, were not part of the mandate, leaving consumers responsible for correct tire pressure on their RVs. As with the other technologies highlighted in the main article, the economies of scale have made TPMS systems affordable for everyone, whether towing a dinghy vehicle or trailer. Here are just a few examples:
Most of us associate RVi with its popular dinghy braking system, but the company also offers Tire Patrol, a unique TPMS with some interesting features. Designed to work with the company’s Command Center Smart RV Tablet and Hub, which features a 7-inch color touch screen with magnetic mount, the Command Center utilizes RVi’s proprietary, encrypted Wi-Fi connection to allow the user to not only view TPMS info, but other “Works with Command Center” products in RVi’s line. Sealed external sensors transmit real-time info on tire pressure/temperature, and each sensor is labeled for its respective tire to expedite the pairing/reconnecting process. A battery-save mode helps the batteries last up to three years, and the company also offers an inexpensive battery replacement program. MSRP: $695 (six-tire motorhome with four-tire towed vehicle). RVi | 800-815-2159
One of the most respected names in RV TPMS, TireMinder recently introduced its Smart TPMS system, which leverages an iPhone, iPad or Android smart device in lieu of a dedicated monitor. The system includes lightweight external transmitters using the 433 MHz frequency, which transmits tire info to the user’s smartphone (checking for tire issues every six seconds) via Bluetooth. The TireMinder app allows the user to choose between monitoring pressure and temperature simultaneously or independently, and the guided set up provides step-by-step instructions. It can even automatically configure baseline pressures. A new alert system for six parameters includes tire-specific voice alerts, allowing the driver to keep his/her eyes on the road — and if the phone or device isn’t on, the included Bluetooth Adapter is said to provide back-up notification. Up to eight different vehicles can be monitored by switching them on/off in the app (two at a time). If a dedicated monitor is preferred, TireMinder offers its TM-77 TPMS, featuring a 3.25-inch display. In addition, every TireMinder customer who registers his/her system with TireMinder is eligible for the company’s free battery replacement plan, which includes free annual replacement of the CR1632 transmitters and O-rings. Minder, a division of Valterra Products LLC | 772-463-6522
Truck System Technologies
Truck System Technologies’ 507 Series TPMS features a 3.5-inch color display that offers real-time tire pressure (up to 218 psi) and temperature information for all tires on the motorhome and dinghy vehicle. High- and low-pressure alarm levels are user-adjustable, and the display can monitor up to four towed vehicles/trailers with audible and visual alerts. TST offers some nice benefits as well, such as a standard repeater (booster) and a choice of cap or flow-through external sensors with replaceable batteries. According to the company, the flow-through sensors are most popular for use on motorhomes and should be used with metal valve stems; cap sensors are more common on towed vehicles. Both sensor types are interchangeable and compatible with the single monitor. Truck System Technologies | 770-889-9102
Unlike performance car tires, where the maximum inflation pressure on the sidewall should never be exceeded, the pressure figure on the sidewall of a light-truck or medium-duty truck tire is the minimum pressure necessary to carry the maximum load. In other words, if a tire reads “Max load single: 3,640 lbs at 65 psi cold,” then 65 psi is the minimum cold inflation temperature necessary to carry the maximum load figure.
Tire manufacturers like Goodyear and Michelin publish load/inflation tables (available online) that indicate how much weight a tire can carry based on inflation pressure. Therefore, it is recommended that you weigh your coach when it is loaded and ready for travel (including passenger weight, fuel, water, supplies, etc.) to determine the amount of air necessary to carry your load. While you may find it necessary to inflate the front and rear tires to different pressures, it is critical that tire pressures remain the same across an axle (even if the weight from side-to-side is different).
Tire pressure should always be checked when the tires are cold — i.e., not driven for more than 1 mile. If your trip takes more than one day, it should be checked every morning before continuing on; if you are on a day trip, it should be checked before you leave, and again before returning home. An easy way to do this is with a tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS).
Besides load and inflation, RVers must become familiar with the data molded into the sidewalls. What you need to concern yourself with in particular are size, load ratings, speed rating and the DOT number that indicates (among other things) the date the tire was manufactured. A typical Class A motorhome tire would be a 275/70R 22.5. The 275 is the design width of the tire expressed in millimeters; 70 is the aspect ratio (also expressed in millimeters), which indicates the height or profile of the sidewall relative to the cross-section width. In this instance, the sidewall is 70% as tall as the cross section is wide. The “R” indicates radial and 22.5 is the rim diameter.