Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
ANTI-JACKKNIFING CONTROL APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR ACTIVE CONVERTER DOLLY
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2020/107125
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The disclosure is directed at an apparatus, method and computer readable medium for a self-powered towed vehicle in a road train or tractor-trailer vehicle configuration to detect and respond to forward jack-knifing risk conditions. The apparatus may detect jack-knifing risk conditions based on sensors and information including sensors to detect an angle of misalignment between the towed vehicle and the vehicle directly in front of it in the road train. The apparatus may respond to the presence of a jack-knifing risk condition by reducing or eliminating the motive rotational force applied to the wheels of the towed vehicle.

Inventors:
LAYFIELD BRIAN (CA)
FAN BRIAN (CA)
Application Number:
CA2019/051717
Publication Date:
June 04, 2020
Filing Date:
November 29, 2019
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
ISABREM LTD (CA)
International Classes:
B60L15/20; B60D1/24; B60L7/18; B60W30/02; B62D53/08
Foreign References:
US6419037B12002-07-16
US20080208424A12008-08-28
US20060244579A12006-11-02
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
RIDOUT & MAYBEE LLP et al. (CA)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

1. An apparatus for releasably coupling a second trailer to a first trailer that is releasably coupled to a towing vehicle in a tractor-trailer vehicle configuration, the apparatus comprising : a frame; at least one pair of wheels rotatably coupled to the frame; at least one motor operably coupled to the at least one wheel of the at least one pair of wheels, wherein the at least one motor is operable in a drive mode for applying motive rotational force to the at least one wheel; a forward jack-knifing detection system for detecting a jack-knifing risk condition of the tractor-trailer vehicle configuration; and a controller operably coupled to the at least one motor for selectively activating and deactivating the drive mode, the controller being configured to deactivate the drive mode based at least in part on the detection of a jack-knifing risk condition by the forward jack-knifing detection system.

2. The apparatus of Claim 1, further comprising : an energy storing device for storing electrical energy; and a kinetic energy recovery device coupled to the energy storing device and adapted to recover energy from regenerative braking of at least one wheel of the at least one pair of wheels, wherein the at least one wheel and the kinetic energy recovery device are cooperatively configured such that while the first trailer translates with the towing vehicle, and the releasable coupling of the apparatus to the first trailer and to the second trailer is effected, braking by the towing vehicle is with effect that the kinetic energy recovery device converts kinetic energy generated by rotation of the at least one wheel to electrical energy, the electrical energy being stored by the energy storing device.

3. The apparatus of Claim 2, wherein : the at least one motor comprises at least one motor-generator; the at least one motor-generator is operable in a generator mode for converting the kinetic energy to the electrical energy, the generator mode effecting deceleration of the at least one wheel; and the controller is operably coupled to the at least one motor-generator for selectively activating and deactivating the drive mode and the generator mode.

4. The apparatus of any one of Claims 1 to 3, wherein the forward jack-knifing detection system comprises: a first wheel speed sensor operably coupled to a first wheel of the at least one pair of wheels for sensing a first wheel speed; and a second wheel speed sensor operably coupled to a second wheel of the at least one pair of wheels for sensing a second wheel speed; and wherein detecting the jack-knifing risk condition comprises detecting a low- traction condition based on at least the first wheel speed data and the second wheel speed data.

5. The apparatus of any one of Claims 1 to 4, wherein : the forward jack-knifing detection system comprises a position sensor; and detecting the jack-knifing risk condition comprises detecting the position of at least a part of the primary trailer relative to at least a part of the apparatus using the position sensor.

6. The apparatus of Claim 5, wherein the position sensor comprises a

mechanical sensor.

7. The apparatus of Claim 6, wherein the mechanical sensor comprises a draw wire encoder.

8. The apparatus of Claim 6, wherein the mechanical sensor comprises a plunger switch.

9. The apparatus of Claim 6, further comprising a first trailer connector for releasably coupling the apparatus to the first trailer, wherein the mechanical sensor comprises a rotation sensor operably coupled to the first trailer connector.

10. The apparatus of Claim 5, wherein the position sensor comprises an optical sensor.

11. The apparatus of Claim 10, wherein the optical sensor comprises a camera.

12. The apparatus of Claim 10, wherein the optical sensor comprises a LIDAR unit.

13. The apparatus of Claim 10, wherein the optical sensor comprises a laser rangefinder.

14. The apparatus of any one of Claims 1 to 13, wherein : the forward jack-knifing detection system comprises a gyroscope and an accelerometer; and the forward jack-knifing detection system detects the jack-knifing risk condition at least in part based on : detecting a yaw of the apparatus using the gyroscope; and detecting a linear acceleration of the apparatus using the accelerometer.

15. The apparatus of any one of Claims 1 to 14, wherein selectively activating and deactivating the drive mode based at least in part on the detection of a jack knifing risk condition comprises deactivating the drive mode when a jack-knifing risk condition is detected.

16. The apparatus of any one of Claims 1 to 15, further comprising one or more brakes operably coupled to brake the one or more pairs of wheels, wherein the controller is further configured to operate the brakes in response to the detection of a jack-knifing risk condition.

17. The apparatus of Claim 16, wherein the brakes comprise an anti-lock braking system.

18. The apparatus of Claim 4, wherein the at least one motor comprises: a first motor operably coupled to the first wheel; and a second motor operably coupled to the second wheel; wherein the controller is configured to: receive data from the first wheel speed sensor indicating the first wheel speed; receive data from the second wheel speed sensor indicating the second wheel speed; detect a low-traction condition based on at least the data from the first wheel speed sensor and the data from the second wheel speed sensor; and adjust the motive rotational force applied to at least one of the first wheel and the second wheel when a low-traction condition is detected.

19. The apparatus of Claim 18, wherein detecting a low-traction condition comprises detecting that the difference between the first wheel speed and the second wheel speed is above a predetermined threshold.

20. The apparatus of Claim 18 or 19, wherein adjusting the motive rotational force comprises increasing the motive rotational force applied by the first motor to the first wheel if the first wheel speed is lower than the second wheel speed and increasing the motive rotational force applied by the second motor to the second wheel if the second wheel speed is lower than the first wheel speed.

21. The apparatus of any one of Claims 18 to 20, wherein adjusting the motive rotational force comprises reducing the motive rotational force applied by the first motor to the first wheel if the first wheel speed is higher than the second wheel speed and reducing the motive rotational force applied by the second motor to the second wheel if the second wheel speed is higher than the first wheel speed.

22. The apparatus of any one of Claims 18 to 21, further comprising : a gyroscope sensor attached to the frame for providing angular acceleration data to the controller; and an accelerometer for providing linear acceleration data to the controller, wherein the low-traction condition is detected based at least in part on the angular acceleration data.

23. The apparatus of Claim 22, wherein detecting the low-traction condition comprises: detecting that the apparatus is moving forward based on the linear

acceleration data; and detecting an increase in the angular acceleration of the apparatus about a vertical axis of the apparatus based on the angular acceleration data.

24. The apparatus of Claim 23, wherein adjusting the motive rotational force comprises adjusting at least one of the motive rotational force applied by the first motor and the motive rotational force applied by the second motor to create angular acceleration in the opposite direction of the detected increase in angular acceleration.

25. The apparatus of any one of Claims 18 to 24, wherein the controller is further configured to: detect that the low-traction condition is no longer present; and resume a baseline operating mode.

26. The apparatus of any one of Claims 1 to 25, wherein the forward jack-knifing detection system is further configured to detect a backup jack-knifing condition.

27. A method for preventing jack-knifing of a tractor-trailer vehicle configuration using a converter dolly towing a second trailer behind a first trailer, the first trailer being towed by a towing vehicle, the converter dolly comprising at least one axle having at least a first wheel on a left side of the converter dolly and a second wheel on the right side of the converter dolly, the first wheel being operably coupled to a first motor, the left second being operably coupled to a second motor, such that the first motor and second motor are each operable in a drive mode for applying a motive rotational force to the first or second wheel respectively, the method comprising : detecting a jack-knifing risk condition; and deactivating the drive mode of the first motor and second motor in response to the detection of the jack-knifing risk condition.

28. The method of Claim 27, wherein : the first motor comprises a first motor-generator; the second motor comprises a second motor-generator; the first motor-generator and second motor-generator are each operable in a generator mode for applying a regenerative braking force to the first or second wheel respectively for converting the kinetic energy to the electrical energy, the regenerative braking force effecting deceleration of the first or second wheel respectively, the method further comprising : detecting a low-traction condition based on at least a rotational speed of the first wheel and a rotational speed of the second wheel; and adjusting one or more of the motive rotational force and the regenerative braking force applied to at least one of the first wheel and the second wheel when a low-traction condition is detected.

29. A non-transitory computer-readable medium containing instructions for causing a processor to execute the following method for preventing jack-knifing of a tractor-trailer vehicle configuration using a converter dolly towing a second trailer behind a first trailer, the first trailer being towed by a towing vehicle, the converter dolly comprising at least one axle having at least a first wheel on a left side of the converter dolly and a second wheel on the right side of the converter dolly, the first wheel being operably coupled to a first motor, the left second being operably coupled to a second motor, such that the first motor and second motor are each operable in a drive mode for applying a motive rotational force to the first or second wheel respectively, the method comprising : detecting a jack-knifing risk condition; and deactivating the drive mode of the first motor and second motor in response to the detection of the jack-knifing risk condition.

30. An apparatus for use with a towed vehicle being towed directly behind a front vehicle, the towed vehicle having one or more wheels driven by a drive and a controller for controlling the drive, the apparatus comprising a forward jack-knifing detection system configured to: detect a jack-knifing risk condition; and provide jack-knife risk condition data to the controller.

31. The apparatus of Claim 30, wherein : the forward jack-knifing detection system comprises a position sensor; and detecting the jack-knifing risk condition comprises detecting the position of at least a part of the front vehicle relative to at least a part of the towed vehicle using the position sensor.

32. A towed vehicle configured to be towed immediately behind a front vehicle, comprising : at least one pair of wheels; a drive for driving at least one wheel of the at last one pair of wheels; a controller for controlling the drive; a forward jack-knifing detection system configured to: detect a jack-knifing risk condition; and provide jack-knife risk condition data to the controller, the controller being configured to reduce an amount of torque applied by the drive to the at least one wheel in response to receiving jack-knife risk condition data indicating the presence of a jack-knife risk condition.

33. The apparatus of Claim 32, wherein : the forward jack-knifing detection system comprises a position sensor; and detecting the jack-knifing risk condition comprises detecting the position of at least a part of the front vehicle relative to at least a part of the towed vehicle using the position sensor.

Description:
ANTI-JACKKNIFING CONTROL APPARATUS AND METHOD FOR ACTIVE

CONVERTER DOLLY

RELATED APPLICATION DATA

[0001] The present application claims priority to provisional U.S. patent application no. 62/772,785, filed November 29, 2018, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] This disclosure relates generally to the road transportation industry. More specifically, the disclosure is directed at a method and apparatus for preventing jackknifing of vehicle trailers.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Transportation of goods across road networks is typically accomplished by way of a transport truck to which a transport trailer is attached. The truck provides the engine and the trailer provides the cargo space to transport goods within. A recent trend in the transportation of goods by road is the expansion of the size of transport trucks. This expansion is accomplished by both larger trucks and larger trailers. Fewer trips with larger loads can be more efficient in certain circumstances. One way to achieve larger loads is to add a pup trailer, also called a second trailer, behind the main trailer (also called a first trailer). A transport trailer with the pup trailer may be called a transport trailer train or a road train.

[0004] The typical equipment used to attach a pup trailer to a transport trailer is called a converter dolly. Current convertor dollies are passive and limited in their use and application. They provide a set of wheels to support the front end of the pup (secondary) trailer and a connector assembly for connecting to the rear end of the main (primary) trailer.

SUMMARY [0005] The present disclosure describes a converter dolly apparatus with an electrical kinetic energy recovery device for capturing braking energy. A number of applications are described, including regenerative braking and active electrical motor control of the dolly wheels for improving the fuel economy of transport trucks.

[0006] In a first aspect, an apparatus is provided for releasably coupling a second trailer to a first trailer that is releasably coupled to a towing vehicle in a tractor-trailer vehicle configuration, the apparatus comprising a frame; at least one pair of wheels; at least one motor operably coupled to the at least one wheel of the at least one pair of wheels, wherein the at least one motor is operable in a drive mode for applying motive rotational force to the at least one wheel; a forward jack knifing detection system for detecting a jack-knifing risk condition of the tractor- trailer vehicle configuration; and a controller operably coupled to the at least one motor for selectively activating and deactivating the drive mode, the controller being configured to deactivate the drive mode based at least in part on the detection of a jack-knifing risk condition by the forward jack-knifing detection system.

[0007] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the apparatus further comprises an energy storing device for storing electrical energy and a kinetic energy recovery device adapted to recover energy from regenerative braking of at least one wheel of the at least one pair of wheels, wherein the first trailer connector assembly, the second trailer connector assembly, the at least one wheel, and the kinetic energy recovery device are cooperatively configured such that while the first trailer translates with the towing vehicle, and the releasable coupling of the apparatus to the first trailer and to the second trailer is effected, braking by the towing vehicle is with effect that the kinetic energy recovery device converts kinetic energy generated by rotation of the at least one wheel to electrical energy.

[0008] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the at least one motor comprises at least one motor-generator; the at least one motor-generator is operable in a generator mode for converting the kinetic energy to the electrical energy, the generator mode effecting deceleration of the at least one wheel; and the controller is operably coupled to the at least one motor- generator for selectively activating and deactivating the drive mode and the generator mode.

[0009] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the forward jack-knifing detection system comprises: a first wheel speed sensor operably coupled to a first wheel of the at least one pair of wheels for sensing a first wheel speed; and a second wheel speed sensor operably coupled to a second wheel of the at least one pair of wheels for sensing a second wheel speed; and wherein detecting the jack-knifing risk condition comprises detecting a low- traction condition based on at least the first wheel speed data and the second wheel speed data.

[0010] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the forward jack-knifing detection system comprises a position sensor; and detecting the jack-knifing risk condition comprises detecting the position of at least a part of the primary trailer relative to at least a part of the apparatus using the position sensor.

[0011] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the position sensor comprises a mechanical sensor.

[0012] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the mechanical sensor comprises a draw wire encoder.

[0013] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the mechanical sensor comprises a plunger switch.

[0014] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the mechanical sensor comprises a rotation sensor operably coupled to the first trailer connector. [0015] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the position sensor comprises an optical sensor.

[0016] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the optical sensor comprises a camera.

[0017] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the optical sensor comprises a LIDAR unit.

[0018] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the optical sensor comprises a laser rangefinder.

[0019] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the forward jack-knifing detection system comprises a gyroscope and an accelerometer; and the forward jack-knifing detection system detects the jack knifing risk condition at least in part based on : detecting a yaw of the apparatus using the gyroscope; and detecting a linear acceleration of the apparatus using the accelerometer.

[0020] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, selectively activating and deactivating the drive mode based at least in part on the detection of a jack-knifing risk condition comprises deactivating the drive mode when a jack-knifing risk condition is detected.

[0021] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the apparatus further comprises one or more brakes operably coupled to brake the one or more pairs of wheels, wherein the controller is further configured to operate the brakes in response to the detection of a jack-knifing risk condition.

[0022] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the brakes comprise an anti-lock braking system. [0023] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the at least one motor comprises: a first motor operably coupled to the first wheel; and a second motor operably coupled to the second wheel; and wherein the controller is configured to: receive data from the first wheel speed sensor indicating the first wheel speed; receive data from the second wheel speed sensor indicating the second wheel speed; detect a low-traction condition based on at least the data from the first wheel speed sensor and the data from the second wheel speed sensor; and adjust the motive rotational force applied to at least one of the first wheel and the second wheel when a low-traction condition is detected.

[0024] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, detecting a low-traction condition comprises detecting that the difference between the first wheel speed and the second wheel speed is above a

predetermined threshold.

[0025] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, adjusting the motive rotational force comprises increasing the motive rotational force applied by the first motor to the first wheel if the first wheel speed is lower than the second wheel speed and increasing the motive rotational force applied by the second motor to the second wheel if the second wheel speed is lower than the first wheel speed.

[0026] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, adjusting the motive rotational force comprises reducing the motive rotational force applied by the first motor to the first wheel if the first wheel speed is higher than the second wheel speed and reducing the motive rotational force applied by the second motor to the second wheel if the second wheel speed is higher than the first wheel speed.

[0027] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the apparatus further comprises a gyroscope sensor attached to the frame for providing angular acceleration data to the controller; and an accelerometer for providing linear acceleration data to the controller, wherein the low-traction condition is detected based at least in part on the angular acceleration data.

[0028] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, detecting the low-traction condition comprises: detecting that the apparatus is moving forward based on the linear acceleration data; and detecting an increase in the angular acceleration of the apparatus about a vertical axis of the apparatus based on the angular acceleration data.

[0029] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, adjusting the motive rotational force comprises adjusting at least one of the motive rotational force applied by the first motor and the motive rotational force applied by the second motor to create angular acceleration in the opposite direction of the detected increase in angular acceleration.

[0030] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the controller is further configured to: detect that the low-traction condition is no longer present; and resume a baseline operating mode.

[0031] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the forward jack-knifing detection system is further configured to detect a backup jack-knifing condition.

[0032] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, a method is disclosed for preventing jack-knifing of a tractor-trailer vehicle configuration using a converter dolly towing a second trailer behind a first trailer, the first trailer being towed by a towing vehicle, the converter dolly comprising at least one axle having at least a first wheel on a left side of the converter dolly and a second wheel on the right side of the converter dolly, the first wheel being operably coupled to a first motor, the left second being operably coupled to a second motor, such that the first motor and second motor are each operable in a drive mode for applying a motive rotational force to the first or second wheel respectively, the method comprising : detecting a jack-knifing risk condition; and deactivating the drive mode of the first motor and second motor in response to the detection of the jack-knifing risk condition.

[0033] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the first motor comprises a first motor-generator; the second motor comprises a second motor-generator; the first motor-generator and second motor- generator are each operable in a generator mode for applying a regenerative braking force to the first or second wheel respectively for converting the kinetic energy to the electrical energy, the regenerative braking force effecting

deceleration of the first or second wheel respectively, the method further

comprising : detecting a low-traction condition based on at least a rotational speed of the first wheel and a rotational speed of the second wheel; and adjusting one or more of the motive rotational force and the regenerative braking force applied to at least one of the first wheel and the second wheel when a low-traction condition is detected.

[0034] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, a non-transitory computer-readable medium is disclosed containing instructions for causing a processor to execute any one of the methods disclosed herein.

[0035] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, an apparatus is disclosed for use with a towed vehicle being towed directly behind a front vehicle, the towed vehicle having one or more wheels driven by a drive and a controller for controlling the drive, the apparatus comprising a forward jack-knifing detection system configured to: detect a jack-knifing risk condition; and provide jack-knife risk condition data to the controller.

[0036] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the forward jack-knifing detection system comprises a position sensor; and detecting the jack-knifing risk condition comprises detecting the position of at least a part of the front vehicle relative to at least a part of the towed vehicle using the position sensor. [0037] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, a towed vehicle is disclosed, configured to be towed immediately behind a front vehicle, comprising : at least one pair of wheels; a drive for driving at least one wheel of the at last one pair of wheels; a controller for controlling the drive; a forward jack-knifing detection system configured to: detect a jack-knifing risk condition; and provide jack-knife risk condition data to the controller, the controller being configured to reduce an amount of torque applied by the drive to the at least one wheel in response to receiving jack-knife risk condition data indicating the presence of a jack-knife risk condition.

[0038] In another aspect that may be combined with other aspects disclosed herein, the forward jack-knifing detection system comprises a position sensor; and detecting the jack-knifing risk condition comprises detecting the position of at least a part of the front vehicle relative to at least a part of the towed vehicle using the position sensor.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0039] Reference will now be made by way of example only to preferred embodiments of the disclosure by reference to the following drawings in which :

[0040] Figure 1 is a side view of a tractor-trailer including an active converter dolly;

[0041] Figure 2a is a perspective view of another embodiment of an active converter dolly;

[0042] Figure 2b is a schematic diagram of one embodiment of a kinetic energy recovery device for an active converter dolly;

[0043] Figure 3 is a perspective view of the active converter dolly;

[0044] Figure 4 is a perspective view of a battery enclosure of the active converter dolly;

[0045] Figure 5a is a schematic view of an active converter dolly control system ;

[0046] Figure 5b is a flowchart outlining one embodiment of controlling an active converter dolly;

[0047] Figure 5c is a flowchart outlining one embodiment of transmitting signals from the converter dolly control system;

[0048] Figure 6 is a schematic diagram of another embodiment of an active converter dolly for use with a tractor-trailer;

[0049] Figure 7 is a chart outlining motor motive rotational force vs. throttle;

[0050] Figure 8 is a chart outlining showing regenerative and friction brake motive rotational force blending;

[0051] Figure 9a is a chart outlining engine motive rotational force vs engine speed for one active converter dolly operational mode;

[0052] Figure 9b is a chart outlining engine motive rotational force vs engine speed for a second active converter dolly operational mode;

[0053] Figure 10 is a schematic diagram of another embodiment of a kinetic energy recovery device;

[0054] Figure 11 is a schematic diagram of a further embodiment of a kinetic energy recovery device;

[0055] Figure 12 is a schematic diagram of a steering mechanism for use with an active converter dolly apparatus;

[0056] Figures 13a and 13b are charts outlining turning radius with respect to different active converter dolly apparatus configurations; [0057] Figure 14 is a perspective view of another embodiment of an active converter dolly apparatus;

[0058] Figure 15 is a simplified partial rear view of an active converter dolly apparatus with an in-wheel motor configuration;

[0059] Figure 16 is a simplified partial rear view of an active converter dolly apparatus with a differential configuration;

[0060] Figure 17 is a flowchart showing the operation of an example controller of an active converter dolly apparatus operating in a stability-assistance mode;

[0061] Figure 18 is a flowchart showing the operation of an example controller of an active converter dolly apparatus configured with an electric-vehicle mode;

[0062] Figure 19 is a flowchart showing the operation of an example controller of an active converter dolly apparatus configured with an anti-idling mode; and

[0063] Figure 20 is a flowchart showing the operation of an example controller of an active converter dolly apparatus operating in a backup-assistance mode.

[0064] Figure 21(a) is an overhead view of a tractor-trailer vehicle at the beginning of a forward jack-knife event.

[0065] Figure 21(b) is an overhead view of a tractor-trailer vehicle at the end of a forward jack-knife event.

[0066] Figure 22(a) is an overhead view of a tractor-trailer vehicle during a trailer slew event.

[0067] Figure 22(b) is an overhead view of a tractor-trailer vehicle recovering from a trailer slew event.

[0068] Figure 23 is an overhead view of a two-trailer road train at risk of a forward jack-knifing event.

[0069] Figure 24 is an overhead view of a two-trailer road train at risk of a different type of forward jack-knifing event from the scenario of Figure 23.

[0070] Figure 25 is an overhead view of a three-trailer road train at risk of a multiple forward jack-knifing event.

[0071] Figure 26 is a flowchart showing the operation of an example controller of an active converter dolly apparatus detecting and responding to a forward jack knifing risk condition.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS

[0072] The disclosure is directed at an active converter dolly apparatus for use in a tractor-trailer configuration. More specifically, with reference now to

Figures 1-20, there is disclosed an apparatus for releasably coupling a second trailer to a first trailer that is releasably coupled to a tractor or towing vehicle in a tractor-trailer vehicle configuration.

[0073] In one embodiment, the apparatus includes a system to connect a towing vehicle to a trailer. The apparatus further includes a kinetic energy recovery device for translating the mechanical motions or actions of the dolly into electricity or electrical energy so that this energy can be used to charge an energy storing device such as a battery or to power other functionality for either the dolly or the tractor-trailer.

[0074] With reference to Figure 1, a schematic diagram of a tractor-trailer vehicle configuration incorporating an example embodiment of an active converter dolly apparatus 14 according to the present disclosure is shown.

[0075] The tractor-trailer 10 includes a towing vehicle 13, such as a tractor, cab or truck that pulls a pair of trailers 12 (seen as a primary or first trailer 12a and a secondary or second trailer 12b) that are connected to each other via an active convertor dolly apparatus 14. The active convertor dolly apparatus 14 connects the two trailers 12a and 12b together such that they move with respect to each other when the towing vehicle 13 is in motion. While only a pair of trailers 12 is shown, it will be understood that more than one active converter dolly apparatus 14 may be used in combination with additional trailers in instances when a tractor-trailer configuration having more than two trailers is desired. Accordingly, the active converter dolly apparatus 14 disclosed in the subject application is not intended to be limited to use in a tractor-trailer configuration having only primary and secondary trailers.

[0076] As shown in Figure 1, the primary and secondary trailers 12a, 12b are connected to each other via the active convertor dolly apparatus 14. The active convertor dolly apparatus 14 connects the two trailers 12a and 12b such that they move together with the towing vehicle 13 when the towing vehicle 13 is in motion. In some embodiments, for example, the apparatus 14 releasably couples the second trailer 12b to the first trailer 12a, which is releasably coupled to the towing vehicle 13, such that while the first trailer 12a is releasably coupled to the towing vehicle 13 and the towing vehicle 13 is in motion, the apparatus 14 translates with the first trailer 12a and the second trailer 12b translates with the apparatus 14, the apparatus 14, the first trailer 12a, the second trailer 12b and the towing vehicle 13 therefore together forming the tractor-trailer vehicle configuration.

[0077] The towing vehicle 13 (sometimes referred to as a prime mover or traction unit) is generally in the form of a heavy-duty towing vehicle having a heavy-duty towing engine that provides motive power for hauling a load. In the subject example embodiment, the towing vehicle 13 has a cab portion 13a and a flatbed portion 13b that extends rearwardly from the cab portion 13a. The cab portion 13a includes an engine compartment 13c and a driver compartment 13d. A front axle 13e is located under the engine compartment 13c and one or more rear axles 13f are located under the flatbed portion 13b of the towing vehicle 13. While in the subject example embodiment the towing vehicle 13 is shown as having only three axles, it will be understood that the actual number axles can vary depending on the actual size of the towing vehicle 13 and the various sizes/types of loads that the towing vehicle 13 is configured for or intended to pull. [0078] In some embodiments, for example, one or more axles on the towing vehicle 13 may be steering axles and one or more axles are driven axles for transmitting motive power from the engine to the wheels 16. Un-driven axles are those that do not receive motive power from the engine but that rotate as a result of the motion induced by the driven axles. In some embodiments, for example, the steering axle(s) may also be driven. In some embodiments, for example, an un driven rear axle can be raised such that the wheels mounted thereon are no longer in contact with the ground or roadway in instances when the towing vehicle 13 is lightly loaded or is not coupled to a trailer so as to save wear on the tires/wheels and/or increase traction on the wheels/tires associated with the driven axle(s).

[0079] Trailers 12a, 12b typically have no front axle and one or more un driven rear axles 112. In some embodiments, for example, the rear axles 112 of trailers 12a, 12b are fixed axles and, in some example embodiments, the rear axles 112 may be part of a slider unit (not shown) that is mounted underneath the trailer 12a, 12b which allows the rear axles 112 to be moved forward or backward, in accordance with principles known in the art, depending on the load being carried by the trailer 12.

[0080] In the subject example embodiment, the primary trailer or first trailer 12a is supported by the flatbed portion 13b of the towing vehicle 13. In some embodiments, for example, in order to couple the first trailer 12a to the towing vehicle 13, the flatbed portion 13b is provided with a coupling plate 15, commonly referred to as a fifth wheel coupling, configured for receiving and coupling with a corresponding locking pin, or kingpin, (not shown) that extends from underneath the first trailer 12b which is received within a corresponding slot formed in the coupling plate 15, the first trailer 12b resting and pivoting on the coupling plate 15 about the locking pin. While a fifth wheel coupling has been described in connection with the coupling of the first trailer to the towing vehicle 13 it will be understood that various other couplings may be used provided the coupling between the towing vehicle 13 and the first trailer 12a is such that the first trailer translates with the towing vehicle 13 when the towing vehicle 13 is in motion and can pivot relative to the towing vehicle 13 for maneuverability. The coupling of the first trailer 12a to the towing vehicle 13 also includes the coupling of at least brake lines to transmit braking forces to the wheels 16 of the trailer 12a when the driver applies the tractor brakes. The coupling of the first trailer 12a to the towing vehicle 13 also includes the coupling of electrical cable to ensure an electrical connection between the tractor and the first trailer 12a for proper operation of tail lights and any other required auxiliary devices or systems associated with the first trailer 12a.

[0081] In the subject example embodiment, the second trailer 12b is coupled to the first trailer 12a by way of the active converter dolly or apparatus 14.

Accordingly, the active converter dolly or apparatus 14 includes at least one pair of wheels 22 that act as the front axle of the second trailer 12b and also includes a first trailer connector assembly 7 for releasably coupling the apparatus 14 to the first trailer 12a such that the apparatus 14 translates with the first trailer 12a. A second trailer connector assembly 6 is provided for releasably coupling the apparatus 14 to the second trailer 12b such that the second trailer 12b translates with the apparatus 14 with both the first trailer 12a and the second trailer 12b being towed by the towing vehicle 13. The coupling of the second trailer 12b within the tractor-trailer vehicle configuration also includes the coupling of brake lines and electrical cables to ensure proper operation of the tractor trailer vehicle 10. As set out above, the apparatus 14 is intended to act as the front axle of the secondary trailer 12b with only a portion of the apparatus 14 extending underneath the secondary trailer 12b such that there is a partial overlap of the trailer 12b with respect to the apparatus 14. In some embodiments, for example, the second trailer connector assembly 6 includes a second trailer support surface and the releasable coupling of the apparatus 14 to the second trailer via the second trailer connector assembly 6 is with effect that the second trailer support surface is disposed underneath the second trailer 12 b. In some embodiments, for example, the overlap between the secondary trailer 12b and the apparatus 14 is less than 75% of the length of the secondary trailer 12b. In some embodiments, for example, the overlap between the secondary trailer 12b and the apparatus 14 is less than 50% of the length of the secondary trailer 12b. In some embodiments, for example, the overlap between the secondary trailer 12b and the apparatus 14 is less than 25% of the length of the secondary trailer 12b. Different embodiments of the apparatus 14 may have different maximum lengths when measured along an axis of the apparatus 14 that is parallel to its central longitudinal axis. In some embodiments, the maximum length is 15 feet. In other embodiments, the maximum length is 12.5 feet. In other embodiments, the maximum length is 10 feet.

[0082] In some embodiments, for example, the active converter dolly or apparatus 14 defines a footprint having an area that is less than 50% of an area defined by an undersurface of the secondary trailer 12b. In some embodiments, for example, the apparatus defines a footprint having an area less than or equal to 50 ft 2 .

[0083] In the subject example embodiment, the active converter dolly apparatus 14 includes a kinetic energy recovery device 30 that is adapted to recover energy from regenerative braking of at least one wheel of the at least one pair of wheels 22 wherein the first trailer connector assembly 7, the second trailer connector assembly 6, the at least one wheel 22, and the kinetic energy recovery device 30 are cooperatively configured such that while the first trailer 12a

translates with the towing vehicle 13, and the releasable coupling of the apparatus 14 to the first trailer 12a and to the second trailer 12b is effected, braking by the towing vehicle 13 is with effect that the kinetic energy recovery device 30 converts kinetic energy generated by rotation of the at least one wheel 22 to electrical energy. In some embodiments, for example, the first trailer connector assembly 7, the second trailer connector assembly 6, the at least one wheel 22, the kinetic energy recovery device 30 and the energy storing device 32 are cooperatively configured such that while the first trailer 12a translates with the towing vehicle 13, and the releasable coupling of the apparatus 14 to the first trailer 12a and to the second trailer 12b is effected, and the towing vehicle 13 is decelerating, the kinetic energy recovery device 30 converts the mechanical energy to electrical energy, which electrical energy is stored on the energy storing device 32.

[0084] Regenerative braking, in general, is an energy recovery mechanism when the mechanical or kinetic energy generated by the rotation of the wheels is recovered or converted into another usable form by applying a regenerative braking force to the wheels, the regenerative braking force effectively slowing down or causing a deceleration in the rotation of the wheels. More specifically, in systems incorporating regenerative braking, an electric motor is used as an electric generator by operating the electric motor in reverse and is therefore often referred to as a motor-generator. The kinetic energy generated by the rotating wheels is transformed into electrical energy by the generator, which electric energy is subsequently stored by an energy storing device 32 such as, for example, a battery. In some embodiments, for example, the energy storing device 32 includes one or more batteries and one or more capacitors. The energy stored on the energy storing device can then be used for other applications.

[0085] In some embodiments, for example, the kinetic energy recovery device 30 is a charge-generating system for translating mechanical motion experienced by the apparatus 14 into an electric charge which allows the apparatus 14 to be used for other applications, as set out in more detail below. In some embodiments, the electric charge can be used to charge a battery or other energy storing device. In some embodiments, the electric charge may be used to power auxiliary devices like refrigeration, an HVAC unit, or other climate control system mounted to the tractor-trailer 10 as part of, either, the towing vehicle 13, first trailer 12a, or second trailer 12b. In some embodiments, the charged battery can be used to jumpstart a dead truck battery or to supply power to accessories when the engine of the towing vehicle 13 is off. In some embodiments, the charged battery can be used to provide motive rotational force to the dolly's wheel through one or more motor-generators.

[0086] In some embodiments, the controller is configured to detect a jumpstart condition of the dolly apparatus 14. The jumpstart condition may be, for example, a condition/state of an interrupt, a presence of an electrical connection between the energy storing device 32 and a towing vehicle battery, an operating condition of the controller (e.g., software setting or the like), or a combination thereof. The dolly apparatus 14 may be operated to transmit stored energy from the energy storing device via an electrical connection a towing vehicle battery to jumpstart towing vehicle in response to detecting a jumpstart condition of the dolly apparatus 14.

[0087] In some embodiments, for example, the active convertor dolly apparatus 14 may be configured to generate charge from other wheels and axles within the tractor-trailer vehicle 10, such as in a series or parallel implementation, to charge the energy-storing device or battery.

[0088] In some embodiments, for example, the active convertor dolly apparatus 14 is a through-the-road (TTR) hybrid vehicle as the apparatus 14 is configured to operate independently from the other axles of the trailers 12 of the tractor-trailer vehicle 10 as will be described in further detail below.

[0089] Turning to Figure 2a, a perspective view of one example embodiment of an active convertor dolly apparatus 14 is shown.

[0090] In this example embodiment, the active converter dolly apparatus 14 includes a frame 24 including a wheel supporting portion, or second end, 9 along with a tongue portion, or first end 8. The frame 24 can be manufactured from different materials such as, but not limited to, high strength steel, carbon fibre, aluminum, or other materials. As will be understood, the apparatus 14 does not have to be made entirely from one material and may be a combination of at least two different materials. As will be discussed in more detail below, the lightweight nature of the composite materials may also provide a benefit or advantage in terms of fuel savings. In some embodiments, for example, the frame 24 is made from lightweight composites in combination with metal components when required for strength or reinforcement purposes. Accordingly, in some embodiments, for example the frame 24 includes only a first material wherein the first material is a metal material. In other embodiments, for example, the frame 24 includes a first material and a second material, wherein the first material is a metal material and the second material is a composite material having a weight that is less than the weight of the metal material such that the frame 24 has an overall weight that is less than an overall weight of a frame having only the first, metal material, the reduction in overall weight of the frame contributing to an increase fuel efficiency of the tractor-trailer vehicle.

[0091] A first trailer connector assembly 7, which in the current embodiment can be seen as a hitch 26, forms part of a tongue portion located at a first end 8 of the frame 24 for connecting the converter dolly apparatus 14 to the first trailer 12a. The connection between the first trailer 12a and the converter dolly apparatus 14 will be well understood by one skilled in the art. Although not shown, the first end 8 of the frame 24 may also include safety chains and at least one electrical

connection 72, such as a wiring harness connection for enabling or securing the first trailer 12a to the apparatus 14. The electrical connection 72 is capable of delivering power from the trailer 12a to the apparatus 14, and in some

embodiments for providing power and/or data signals from the apparatus 14 to the first trailer 12a. This electrical communication may extend through the first trailer 12a to the towing vehicle 13, and it may be mediated at one or more points by further converters or transformers, such as a DC-DC (direct current-direct current) converter or transformer for stepping down the high-voltage power stored in the energy storage device of the apparatus 14 to the low-voltage electrical systems of the towing vehicle 13. In some embodiments, the electrical connection 72 includes electrical connection of the kinetic energy recovery device 30 to the first trailer 12b for receiving vehicle data from the towing vehicle 13.

[0092] In some embodiments, a support leg or support apparatus 27 is also attached to the frame 24 at the first end 8. In some embodiments, for example, the support leg or apparatus 27 includes a coaster wheel.

[0093] The apparatus 14 has a second end 9 at the rear of the frame 24. The frame 24 includes at least one pair of wheels 22 rotatably mounted to the frame 24. For each one of the at least one pair of wheels 22, one of the wheels of the pair of wheels 22 is mounted on one side of the frame 24 and the other one of wheels of the pair of wheels 22 is mounted to a second opposite side of the frame 24. Each one of the wheels 22, independently, is disposed on opposite sides of a central longitudinal axis of the apparatus 14 (i.e. from front first portion 8 to rear second portion 9) and configured for rotation about an axis transverse to, or substantially transverse to, the central longitudinal axis of the apparatus (such as the axis from the left side to the right side of the frame 24). In the illustrated embodiment, the wheel pairs includes two wheels 22 to improve the load bearing capacity of the active converter apparatus 14.

[0094] In some embodiments, for at least one (for example, each one) of the at least one pair of wheels 22, the wheels are mounted to an axle. In some embodiments, the axle is rotatably coupled to the frame 24. In some embodiments, for example, the axle is a single solid shaft (e.g. driveshaft) and each one of the wheels 22 of the pair, independently, is rotatably coupled to the same shaft, such that the axle includes, or is defined by, the single solid shaft, and the single solid shaft is driven by a motor. In some embodiments, for example, each one of the wheels 22 of the pair, independently, is coupled to a respective shaft (e.g.

driveshaft), such that one of the wheels of the pair is rotatably coupled to a first driveshaft and the second one of the wheels of the pair is rotatably coupled to a second driveshaft, and the first and second driveshafts are coupled to each other via a differential, such that the axle includes, or is defined by, the first driveshaft, the second driveshaft, and the differential. In some embodiments, for at least one (for example, each one) of the at least one pair of wheels 22, each one of the wheels of the pair, independently, is mounted to the frame 24 via a non-rotating shaft and is driven by a respective driveshaft (and each one of the wheels of the pair is coupled to its own electric motor-generator wheel assembly via its own driveshaft). In this respect, a first wheel on the left side of the frame 24 may be connected to a first driveshaft 110, and a second wheel on the right side of the frame 24 may be connected to a second driveshaft 111, and there is an absence of interconnection between the first and second driveshafts 110, 111, and such that such that the axle includes, or is defined by, the independent first and second driveshafts 110, 111. In some embodiments, each one of the wheels of the pair, independently, is mounted to the frame 24 via a non-rotational shaft and is coupled to its own electric motor-generator wheel assembly (e.g. via a driveshaft), such that the axle includes, or is defined by, the non-rotational shaft. [0095] In the illustrated embodiment of Figure 2a, a secondary trailer mounting assembly 6 is shown as a fifth wheel assembly 28 that is mounted to a top of the frame 24. The fifth wheel assembly 28 may include an upwardly facing portion having a slot for receiving a corresponding protrusion (or locking pin or kingpin) from the secondary trailer 12b for removable mounting or coupling of the secondary trailer 12b to the converter dolly apparatus 14. The fifth wheel assembly 28 is supported in some embodiments by a spring suspension system (not shown). In some embodiments, for example, the spring suspension system is for dampening displacement of the second trailer 12b along an axis perpendicular to, or

substantially perpendicular to, the central longitudinal axis of the apparatus 14.

[0096] As set out above, the apparatus 14 includes a kinetic energy recovery device 30 or a charge generating system that generates an electric charge during certain mechanical actions by the apparatus 14. The electric charge in some embodiments is used to charge an energy-storing device 32, such as a battery, that is mounted to the frame 24. In some embodiments, for example, the energy storing device 32 is housed within an enclosure or housing 34 to protect the energy-storing device 32 from any damage. In some embodiments, for example, the enclosure 34 is waterproof and durable.

[0097] A schematic diagram of the kinetic energy recovery device 30 or charge generating system is shown in Figure 2b.

[0098] As schematically shown in Figure 2b, the kinetic energy recovery device 30 includes a set of one or more electric motor-generators 36 (two in the example embodiments of Figures 2a and 3), mounted to an electric axle 37 that connects the wheels 22 (as shown in Figure 2a). The motor-generators 36 are used to convert the electric energy stored in the energy-storing device 32 to mechanical energy by applying a motive rotational force to the wheels 22 thereby rotating the wheels 22 (drive mode), or to convert mechanical energy from the rotating wheels 22 into electric power (generator mode) by applying a regenerative braking force to the wheels 22 thereby braking or effecting deceleration of the wheels 22. In the example embodiments of Figures 2a, 2b, and 3, the electric motor-generators 36 are located proximate the wheels 22 of the apparatus 14. In some embodiments, for example, each wheel 22 includes a hub wherein the electric motor generators 36 are mounted within the respective hub of the wheels 22. Although two motor- generators 36 are shown, it will be understood that the kinetic energy recovery device 30 may include only a single motor-generator (such as located along the axle between the two wheels 22 through a differential 116) or may include more than two motor-generators 36. The motor-generator 36 controls the movement of the wheels 22 via the axle 37 based on signals transmitted from a dolly controller 502. The controller 502 will be described in more detail below.

[0099] The energy-storing device 32 stores energy generated by the kinetic energy recovery device 30. In some embodiments, a motor-generator drive 38 receives the electric power generated through regenerative braking of the apparatus 14 to charge the energy-storing device 32; the motor-generator drive 38 can later use this stored power to power the electric motors 36. In some

embodiments, kinetic energy may be converted into electric form by regenerative braking when the truck's engine is running at high efficiency and the battery is at low charge.

[00100] The active converter dolly apparatus 14 may further include a plurality of onboard instrumentation within a control system or controller 502 that communicate with equipment, such as sensors 40, that may be used for, among other applications, assistance with steering and stability. In some embodiments, the sensors 40 may be used to assist in aligning the first and second trailers 12a and 12b when the tractor-trailer 10 is moving in reverse. In some embodiments, the sensors 40 may be used to detect low-traction conditions and stabilize the vehicle in motion. These applications are set out in further detail below.

[00101] Furthermore, in some embodiments, sensors may be used to help identify the relative position of the converter apparatus 14 to other elements or components of the tractor-trailer 10. The output from the sensors 40 can be fed into one or more dolly control systems (located within the enclosure 34 in some embodiments), when such information can be used to control the apparatus 14. (A schematic diagram of a dolly control system is shown and described in more detail below with respect to Figure 5.)

[00102] Figure 3 is a schematic rear view of the dolly of Figure 2a. Some components of the dolly have been removed for ease of understanding of the disclosure. For instance, one set of wheels 22 and parts of the frame 24 have been removed.

[00103] In some embodiments, for example, the kinetic energy recovery device 30 includes an electric motor-generator wheel assembly 50 that can be seen as an integrated electric motor wheel assembly. Although not shown, a similar wheel assembly is preferably mounted adjacent the other wheel 22. These two electric motor-generator wheel assemblies 50 may in various embodiments include two motor-generators 36 driving two axles (one for the wheels 22 on each side of the frame 24), one or more motor-generators 36 driving a differential 116 attached to two drive shafts 110,111, or one or more motor-generators 36 driving a single common axle attached to the wheels 22 on both sides of the frame 24.

[00104] In operation, as the tractor-trailer 10 starts to brake, the motor- generator wheel assembly 50 captures the kinetic energy of the apparatus 14, with this energy flowing via the motor-generator drive 38 to the energy-storing device 32. The combination of electric motor-generators 36 and drive 38 converts the kinetic energy into electricity before it is transmitted to the energy-storing device 32.

[00105] In some embodiments, braking of the tractor-trailer vehicle 10 is detected through the brake lines and/or the electrical connection 72 from the towing vehicle 13 to the dolly apparatus 14. In other embodiments, this method of braking detection may be replaced or supplemented with one or more sensors incorporated into the apparatus 14 to detect acceleration and deceleration and to operate the drive mode and generator mode of the motor-generators 36

accordingly. For example, some embodiments may eliminate the need for real time braking data from the towing vehicle 13 by incorporating one or more force sensors into the dolly 14. The force sensors may be strain gauges and/or load cells to sense the pull/push forces. The force sensors may be located somewhere on the frame 24, on the second trailer connector assembly 6, or on the first trailer connector assembly 7. In the example embodiment shown in Figure 14, force sensors 80 such as strain gauges are incorporated into the pintle hook or hitch 26 forming the first trailer connector assembly 7. These force sensors 80 are configured to detect compression and tension in the hitch 26, corresponding generally to braking

(deceleration) and acceleration of the tractor-trailer 10. When the converter dolly 14 is being "pulled" (e.g. when the hitch is under tension), the motor-generator 36 will apply tractive motive rotational force or motive rotational force to reduce the pull force (drive mode), hence assisting the towing vehicle 13 engine to pull the trailer load. On the other hand, when the converter dolly is being "pushed" (e.g. when the hitch 26 is under compression), the motor-generator 36 will be in the regenerative braking mode (generator mode) to reduce the "push force", thus harvesting the kinetic energy of the trailer during braking. A close-loop PID controller can be used in some embodiments to minimize the "pull" or "push" force at the force sensors 80 by fine-tuning the PID coefficients. Additionally, some embodiments may use two additional force sensors 80 on left and right sides of the converter dolly's pintle hook or hitch 26 to measure the force vector acting on the electric converter dolly 14. The force vector will provide left or right direction vector information in addition to knowing whether the converter dolly is being "pulled" or "pushed". The pintle hook or hitch 26 with the load cell sensors 80 may in some embodiments be designed as a replaceable component, to allow ease of

replacement in the case of broken sensors. In some embodiments, such a control system will not require any information from the towing vehicle 13, thus allowing the electric converter dolly 14 to be a complete standalone unit.

[00106] A battery and control enclosure 34 is mounted on the frame 24. In various embodiments it may be mounted to the frame 24 on the sides, the rear second end 9 as shown in Figure 2a, or close to the front first end 8 as described below with respect to the embodiment of Figure 14. The control enclosure 34 may be formed from a durable waterproof and corrosion resistant material such as a composite or aluminum, which may be lightweight for fuel economy reasons. By being both waterproof and corrosion resistant, the enclosure 34 in some

embodiments provides a durable compartment for the converter apparatus 14.

[00107] Turning to Figure 4, a perspective view of one embodiment of a battery enclosure 34 is shown. As illustrated, the walls of the enclosure 34 are shown as being transparent so that the contents of the enclosure can be seen.

[00108] In this embodiment, the enclosure 34 houses a control module 60 and an energy-storing device 32 (shown here as a battery). The control module 60 may in various embodiments performs multiple functions for the apparatus 14. In some embodiments, the control module 60 is used to monitor and control the energy storing device 32. It can also be used to control the motor-generators 36 through their drives 38 in both drive mode and generating mode. Furthermore, the control module 60 may monitor and control the charging of the energy-storing device 32, such as via external plug-in sources. The control module 60 may also include an intelligent power dispatch system to determine when to power the wheels via the motor-generators 36. Furthermore, the control module 60 may include an intelligent steering system to control braking and traction of opposite wheels, or to provide shunting operation of the active converter dolly, or both. In some

embodiments, the control module 60 may be used to set up the kinetic energy recovery device 30 for regenerative braking or for providing auxiliary power depending upon the road circumstances and the condition of the load on the tractor engine. The operation of the controller in various embodiments is described in greater detail below.

[00109] In some embodiments, for example, the enclosure 34 also houses the energy-storing device 32, which in the preferred embodiment is a modular lithium- ion battery system. The enclosure 34 may also house a sensor interface 62 which communicates with the sensors 40 located throughout the dolly. The sensor interface 62 may communicate with the sensors 40, to assist, for example, with using the apparatus 14 to direct the steering of the trailer(s) when the tractor trailer is moving in reverse. While shown separately, the sensor interface 62 can be integrated within the control module 60.

[00110] In some embodiments, the enclosure 34 may also house a gyroscope sensor 64 attached to the frame 24 and an off-board power interface 66. The gyroscope sensor 64 may be in communication with the dolly control system to transmit signals which can be used, for example, as part of a self-balancing control system for the converter dolly apparatus 14. In some embodiments, for example, the controller 502 may receive and process the signals from the gyroscope sensor 64 and use self-balancing data from the signals (e.g. data on the angular pitch acceleration of the apparatus 14 about a left-to-right central axis of the apparatus 14) to drive the motor-generators 36 to control rotation of the wheels 122 to maintain the level orientation of the apparatus 14 in a self-balancing mode. In the event that the apparatus 14 is self-balancing, the presence of a support leg or support apparatus 27 may not be necessary.

[00111] The off-board power interface 66 may be used to connect the energy storing device 32 to off-board charging systems or off-board loads. The enclosure 34 may include a communication interface 68 that communicates with towing vehicle engine information system. In some embodiments, the communication interface 68 is part of the control module 60. It may in various embodiments be a wired electrical or a wireless communication interface, such as a radio interface (using a wireless protocol such as e.g. 802.11), and it may communicate with the towing vehicle 13 via the tractor's on-board diagnostics (OBD-II) port. The communication interface 68 may in some embodiments be able to access controller area network (CAN) bus data from the towing vehicle 13. In some embodiments, the communication interface 68 may be able to send data from the apparatus 14 to the towing vehicle 13, such as control signals used to control vehicle systems in the towing vehicle 13.

[00112] The communication interface 68 may be configured to receive various types of data from the towing vehicle 13, and in some embodiments from the first trailer 12a as well. This data may include the throttle level of the main tractor; the engine motive rotational force; the engine speed; the parking brake state; the transmission state; the brake activation state; or any other information accessible in the towing vehicle 13. This data may in various embodiments be used by the active converter dolly control system to determine when to recover, and when to expend, recovered energy to assist in increasing the fuel economy of the tractor- trailer system.

[00113] In some embodiments, a forward exterior surface of the battery enclosure 34 may be configured to reduce drag. Various aerodynamic profiles can be used, and the profile shown in Figure 3 is not intended to be limiting. In some cases, the low positioning of the battery enclosure may allow for a ground effect design to be employed, meaning that the shape will take into account both the passage of air from in front and past the leading edge, as well as air passing below the leading edge between the leading edge and the ground. In some embodiments, for example, the enclosure 34 may also house a cooling system for cooling the energy-storing device 32 and the other electronic components housed within the enclosure 34. In some embodiments, for example, the cooling system is liquid cooled, while in others it is air cooled. In some embodiments, the enclosure 34 is located at a low level between the wheels 22 such that the weight of the battery and control systems within the enclosure 34 are located as low down as is practical to have a lower centre of gravity to improve road handling and control of the apparatus 14 during transport. Accordingly, in some embodiments, the housing or enclosure 34 is disposed on or mounted to the frame such that the apparatus has a centre of gravity disposed below a central, midline axis of the apparatus. In another embodiment, the system may include a lightweight composite chassis or frame 24 which is aerodynamic by design and includes one or more enclosures 34 for the batteries and controls.

[00114] Turning to Figure 5a, a schematic diagram of a control system 500 for the apparatus 14 is shown. In the illustrated embodiment, certain components of a second trailer 12b which are in communication with the apparatus control system 500 are also schematically shown.

[00115] The apparatus control system 500 includes an intelligent controller 502 which is, in some embodiments, implemented within a central processing unit (CPU). In the illustrated embodiment, the controller 502 is in communication with the tractor OBD (on-board diagnostics) unit, such as an OBD-II port, via a power line communicator unit 504 to receive the tractor or truck (e.g. tractor, truck, car or cab) and tractor engine information. Wireless communication, such as a radio- based communication interface, can also be used instead of or in addition to the power line communicator unit 504 to connect the tractor OBD to the dolly control system 502. The dolly control system 502 may also communicate information to the towing vehicle 13 via the communication interface 68 in some embodiments.

[00116] The dolly control system 502 also communicates with the set of sensors 40, such as but not limited to, a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) tracking devices, such as global positioning system (GPS) transceiver, an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) sensor, one or more wheel speed sensors 70, 71 each placed on one of the wheels 22 or axles of the apparatus 14, one or more linear accelerometers 74, and/or the gyroscope sensor 64. The wheel speed sensors 70,

71 measure individual wheel speeds of the dolly apparatus 74 to capture magnitude and direction (e.g., forwards or backwards) of the dolly apparatus 74, as described elsewhere herein. The gyroscope sensor 74 and the linear accelerometer 74 may be mounted onto the frame 24 around the center of the dolly apparatus 74. The gyroscope sensor 64 may be used to monitor angular acceleration of the dolly apparatus 74 and the linear accelerometer 74 will be used to sense the linear acceleration of the dolly apparatus 74 as described elsewhere herein, as described elsewhere herein.

[00117] The intelligent controller 502 may be use the sensor data to trigger a corrective response. The wheel speed sensors 70, 71 monitor individual wheel speeds and may trigger the corrective response when the difference of the wheel speed is larger than a preset threshold, as described elsewhere herein. This may occur when one wheel is slipping and spinning much faster than the other wheel on the same axle. This scenario indicates the vehicle is losing traction and in most cases losing control. The accelerometer 74 combined with the gyroscope sensor 64 monitor the linear and angular acceleration of the dolly apparatus 74. When the vehicle is moving forward (i.e., longitudinal direction), a sudden increase in the angular acceleration around the vertical z-axis (i.e., yaw motion) may trigger a corrective response.

[00118] The intelligent controller 502, in the case of one motor drive system, connects to a differential and transfers power to the two wheels. When slipping of the wheels or a sudden increase of yaw acceleration are detected, an electronic locking device wheel will lock the differential drive, effectively turning it into a solid axle. This action will transfer the motive rotational force to the wheel with traction, thereby reducing the instability of the dolly apparatus 74. Additionally, when slipping of the wheels occurs, the intelligent controller 502 will cut power to the motor to reduce the motive rotational force output to the wheels.

[00119] In the case of independent wheel motors drive system, individual wheel speed and motive rotational force will be controlled by the intelligent controller 502. When a wheel slipping occurs, the intelligent controller 502 will control the speed of the wheels via motive rotational force command to match the corresponding vehicle speed. When a sudden yaw acceleration occurs, the intelligent controller 502 will adjust the motive rotational force applied to the wheel in the opposite direction to counter the detected yaw acceleration, thereby reducing the overall yaw acceleration of the dolly apparatus 74.

[00120] When the speed difference of both wheels on the same axle and/or the yaw acceleration of the dolly apparatus 14 is reduced to the preset threshold, the intelligent controller 502 will stop applying the corrective motor response.

[00121] The intelligent controller 502 is also in two-way communication with a battery and battery management system (BMS) unit 506 and a motor-generator drive 508 in some embodiments. The battery and BMS unit 506 is also connected to the drive 508. The motor-generator drive 508 is further connected to, or in communication with, the set of motor-generators 36 (see Figure 2b) that are associated with an individual wheel 22. As schematically shown in Figure 2b, the number of motor-generators 36 in the illustrated set is two. [00122] The intelligent controller 502 is also connected to a database 510 including road grade information 512 which can be stored within a database or based on sensor information, or real time road information by connecting the dolly intelligent controller 502 to wireless network.

[00123] Separate connectors, seen as an electric connector from the trailer 518 and an electric connector to the trailer 520 are also connected to the electric line 516. As will be understood, one of the connectors 518 or 520 is connected to the first trailer and the other connector is connected to the second trailer.

[00124] The intelligent controller 502 may in some embodiments further include an interface of a module allowing the controller to be monitored by a user over the Internet, such as via the communication interface 68.

[00125] The truck or tractor includes a power line communication unit 522 that converts information from a vehicle on-bard diagnostics (OBD) system 524 to be sent via the truck electric lines. In another embodiment, the OBD information can be converted and transmitted wirelessly, such as via the communication interface 68. The truck or tractor power line communication unit 522 is connected to the electric line 526 which, in turn, is connected to an electric connector to a trailer 528, In use, the electric connector to trailer 528 and the electric connector from trailer 518 are connected via a cable to each other to deliver power and OBD information from the truck to all the connected trailers and dollies to the tractor.

[00126] Collectively, the electric connector from the trailer 518, electric connector to the trailer 520, electric line 516, electric line 526, and electric connector to a trailer 528 shown in Figure 5 all form part of the electrical

connection 72 configured in various embodiments to carry information, or electrical power, or both between the various tractor-trailer vehicle 10 components (i.e. the towing vehicle 13, the first trailer 12a, the dolly apparatus 14, and the second trailer 12b).

[00127] In some embodiments, the transmission of signals between the vehicle OBD 524 and the intelligent controller 502 is via the electric line when the signals from the vehicle OBD are converted by the power line communicator unit 522 which then uploads the converted signal to the truck electric line. At the dolly end, the signals are received by the power line communication unit 504 which then extracts the converted OBD signals and then decrypts or converts these signals into a format understood by the controller 502. In another embodiment, the signals may be communicated or transmitted wirelessly between the vehicle OBD and the intelligent controller using the communication interface 68.

[00128] In operation, as the tractor-trailer is in motion, the intelligent controller 502 receives and transmits signals to the other components of the controller system. For instance, the intelligent controller 502 can communicate with the sensors 40 to receive signals representing various data that the controller 502 can use to assist in improving operation of the tractor-trailer and the dolly.

[00129] A method of convertor dolly control is shown with respect to Figure 5b. As the truck is driving, the vehicle OBD 524 collects various truck information with respect to characteristics of the truck. For instance, this information may include, but is not limited to, a position of the brake pedal or braking motive rotational force, amount of motive rotational force being generated by the engine, the speed of the engine, etc.. The sensors may also collect sensor information associated with various dolly characteristics such as listed above. Other information may include road grade information, map information or any real-time information and the like.

[00130] All, or parts of this, information is then transmitted to, and received by, the intelligent controller 502 within the dolly (step 1000). In terms of the signals received from the vehicle OBD, in some embodiments, the digital signals from the vehicle OBD 524 are converted by the power line communication unit 522 and then transmitted over the truck electric line 526. These signals are then retrieved, or received, by the power line communicator unit 504 within the dolly and then extracted, and, if necessary, re-converted before being received by the controller 502. As will be understood, the power line communicator unit 504 converts the extracted signals into a format understandable by the controller 504. As will be understood, due to the connection between the dolly and the trailers (via the connectors 518 and 520), the dolly control system 502 has access to any signals and electricity that is transmitted over the electric line 526.

[00131] In some embodiments, the digital signals may be transmitted wirelessly from the vehicle OBD 524 to the controller 502 via the communication interface 68.

[00132] After the controller 502 receives the digital signals, the controller processes the signals (step 1002) and then generates dolly control signals to control the dolly (step 1004) based on the digital signals. The dolly control signals may also be seen as motor-generator drive control signals.

[00133] For instance, if the towing vehicle 13 is braking, the controller 501 may receive digital signals representing the level of braking being applied to the truck. In one embodiment this is determined by the vehicle OBD by monitoring the position of the brake pedal within the truck. After receiving the digital signals, either directly from the vehicle OBD or converted by the power line communicator unit, the controller can generate and send a signal to the motor-generators 36 (via the motor-generator drive 508) to apply a corresponding regenerative brake motive rotational force. In this manner, during this regenerative braking, the battery can be charged based on the braking motive rotational force value calculated by the controller.

[00134] In another embodiment, the controller 502 may receive a digital signal indicating that the truck is being started. If the battery is charged or has some charge, the controller may generate and transmit a signal to the motor-generator to apply or generate a motive rotational force to assist startup of the truck to improve the efficiency of the truck motor.

[00135] In another embodiment, if the state of charge (SOC) within the dolly's battery is low, signals relating to the truck engine's maximum efficiency may be received by the controller whereby the controller may then generate and transmit a signal to the kinetic energy recovery device to charge the battery when possible.

[00136] Turning to Figure 5c, a flowchart outlining a method of communication from the dolly control system is shown. Initially, dolly information signals, which are typically digital, may be converted (step 1010) if they are being transmitted to a truck driver over the electric line as discussed above. The dolly information may include information relating to the dolly's position, the battery charge, or the like.

[00137] The dolly information signals are then transmitted (step 1012) to specified destinations or individuals, such as, but not limited to, the truck driver or a fleet manager. As will be understood, the signals may be transmitted wirelessly via the communication interface 68 or via the electric line 526 to the truck driver. The step of signals being transmitted to the fleet manager is generally performed wirelessly.

[00138] The active converter apparatus 14, as outlined above, may be considered in some embodiments a TTR hybrid system. As such, the dolly apparatus 14 in some embodiments operates in different operational modes.

[00139] In one mode, the active converter dolly 14 does not participate in extracting or providing power to the tractor-trailer system. In this mode the converter dolly will be passive. In another mode, sometimes referred to as an anti idling mode, auxiliary loads (for example cabin's or trailer's A/C system) are driven by the kinetic energy recovery device 30 of the dolly 14 or the stored energy in its energy storing device 32. In yet another set of modes, such as a drive mode and a stability-assistance mode, the energy in the dolly's energy storing device 32 is used to provide traction motive rotational force in the dolly's tires 22 to assist the motion of the tractor-trailer vehicle 10. In another mode, referred to as generator mode, the dolly is used to extract and convert the mechanical power in the rotation of its wheels into electric power via its motor-generators using regenerative braking. The electric power then can be stored in the energy storing device 32 and/or run auxiliary devices of the tractor-trailer vehicle 10. This mode may activated during regenerative braking or when the truck-trailer drives downhill, or when the energy storing device 32 needs to be charged, in which it may be activated when the engine is operating at high efficiency.

[00140] In a further mode, called electric-vehicle (EV) mode, the dolly apparatus 14 may use the power stored in the energy storing device 32 to power the motor-generators 36 to push the entire tractor-trailer vehicle 10 forward when it is moving at low speeds. In another mode, called backup-assistance mode, the motor-generators are employed to stabilize and straighten the tractor-trailer vehicle 10 when backing up.

[00141] Some of these modes are described in more detail below.

[00142] In further designing one embodiment of the dolly, certain driving conditions are considered. These conditions may include, but are not limited to, acceleration (when the vehicle's velocity is increasing); deceleration (when the driver releases the accelerator pedal and may press the brake pedal); and cruising (when the road load and the vehicle's velocity are constant).

[00143] An example of drive mode is as follows. During acceleration, if there is enough charge in batteries, and when the state of charge (SOC) of the battery is greater than the SOC threshold acceleration, the dolly may assist the truck's powertrain via the electric motor associated with the dolly wheels, providing an additional boost motive rotational force in addition to the motive rotational force generated by the tractor. In one embodiment, the SOC threshold acceleration can be a predetermined threshold calculated via experiments or system optimization calculations. This boost motive rotational force depends on vehicle speed, the battery's SOC, and the accelerator pedal position. A sample map for electric motor output during acceleration at a sample vehicle speed equal to 50 km/h for various battery SOCs is shown in Figure 7.

[00144] An example of generator mode is as follows. During deceleration, if the battery is or batteries are not fully charged, the dolly 14 typically does not assist the truck or other towing vehicle 13 nor add any load to the truck to extract any energy. During coasting and based on the battery's SOC, the dolly 14 may extract power via the motor-generator 36 for charging the batteries 32. However, when the brake pedal is depressed, parallel regenerative braking is actuated. Depending on vehicle speed and consequently, the generator's rotational speed, for approximately 10-20% of initial brake pedal travel, the friction brakes are not engaged and only regenerative braking is applied. During harder braking conditions, depending on the value of generator speed and max motive rotational force, the braking energy may not completely regenerated. In these situations, the excessive amount of braking motive rotational force is applied by friction braking, as shown in Figure 8. This process is called brake motive rotational force blending.

[00145] An example of alternating drive mode and generator mode is as follows. During cruising, depending on the status of load, or drive motive rotational force, relative to optimum load, or drive motive rotational force, the dolly 14 may assist the truck powertrain, being in drive mode, or extracting power via the generator in generator mode. In this situation, if the truck powertrain motive rotational force is greater than the optimum motive rotational force of the engine at that speed, the dolly will be in assist mode (i.e. drive mode), in which the electric motor of the motor-generator 36 provides a boost motive rotational force in addition to the truck motive rotational force output, as shown in Figure 9a.

Consequently, there is a lower motive rotational force request from the engine due to the available motor motive rotational force, which results in a more-efficient tractor operating point. Finally, if the engine toque is less than the optimum load, or drive motive rotational force, the dolly 14, depending on the SOC of the battery 32, will be in generator mode: the truck powertrain delivers its power to the load and the load delivers power to electric powertrain, as shown in Figure 9b. In this situation, some portion of engine power is stored in the batteries 32 by the motor- generator 36, and the extra requested motive rotational force from the drive of the towing vehicle (such as an internal combustion engine, ICE) moves the current towing vehicle drive operating point to a more efficient one.

[00146] With respect to some embodiments of the active converter dolly, certain characteristics of the dolly are required. More specifically, power and performance, powertrain configuration, and steerability are taken into account in the design of some embodiments of the active converter dolly 14.

[00147] With respect to the powertrain configuration, two scenarios, seen as an in-wheel motor embodiment and a drive axle embodiment can be considered. [00148] For embodiments with an in-wheel motor configuration, the kinetic energy recovery device 30 includes two drive shafts 110,111 with two in-wheel motor-generators 36, such as schematically shown in Figure 10. As shown in Figure 10, the apparatus 14 is connected to the second trailer 12b. The motor-generators 36 can provide the required power for driving, and by applying different traction forces, it can play the role of a steering system. While this configuration may require a higher level of modification to be retro-fitted into existing converter dollies, it may more suitable for Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) applications because the left and right motors can be operated independently to provide different traction/braking motive rotational force to each wheel. By controlling this properly, a corrective yaw moment is formed, which can be used to improve dynamical behaviour of the combination of the towing vehicle, trailers, and the converter dolly.

[00149] For the drive-axle embodiment, in this configuration, the axle 37 is a drive axle such as schematically shown in Figure 11. Unlike the system of Figure 10, the level of modification for this configuration is lower. Furthermore, in some embodiments, the motor-generator includes a motor-generator reduction gear which can also be embedded into the axle 37 (double reduction axle).

[00150] When the active converter dolly or apparatus 14 is disconnected from a first trailer 12a but still connected to a second trailer 12b, the apparatus 14 can be used to move the second trailer 12b without having to go through the hassle of re-mounting the first trailer 12a. With respect to steerability, in the in-wheel motor configuration shown in Figure 10, the steering may be altered by differential motive rotational force applied by each motor-generator 36. In the drive-axle configuration shown in Figure 11, a steering mechanism 1200 may be integrated with the converter dolly 14. A schematic of the steering mechanism 1200 that can be used for an active converter dolly 14 is shown in Figure 12. The steering can be achieved by using a motor 1202. Either an electric or a hydraulic linear actuator 1204 can also provide the retractability of the steering mechanism, which can also be seen as a third wheel assembly or coaster wheel 1206. However, since using a hydraulic actuator may require additional power sources and accessories (hydraulic power and connections), some embodiments may use an electric linear actuator. In some embodiments, for example, a steering device for releasably coupling to the steering mechanism is provided for assisting with steering of the apparatus 14 and second trailer 12b when the apparatus 14 and second trailer 12b are disconnected from the first trailer 12a. In some embodiments, for example, the steering device includes a steering column and steering wheel.

[00151] Using the related equation of motion for the articulated vehicles, the steerability of both configurations (of Figures 10 and 11) were investigated. Figures 13a and 13b illustrate the turning radius of the trailer equipped with an active converter dolly with differential motive rotational force steering (Figure 13a) and steering mechanism (Figure 13b) configurations.

[00152] It can now be appreciated that the active converter dolly or apparatus 14 may not only improve fuel economy when it is attached to the tractor-trailer but can also be used to shunt a trailer when it is not attached to a trailer with adding a steering mechanism. Although not shown, a steering wheel, joystick, or other interfaces can also be included to communicate with the dolly controller to enable a driver locally or remotely to steer the dolly. As such, the dolly can be used to shunt the second trailer around a staging area even when the second trailer is

disconnected from the tractor. This may be to place the second trailer in position for loading or unloading, or to place it in position for being attached to a trailer. Because the apparatus 14 is equipped with a steering system and by the dolly control system, the apparatus 14 can be directed or steered into position. In some embodiments, the steering can be manually applied, such as by way of a remote control device. Such a device may be a joystick, smart phone or tablet device which includes software access to the steering control or mechanism. In this way the apparatus 14 can be controlled remotely while it is being maneuvered into position. Collision avoidance sensors may also be used to help avoid accidents. The collision avoidance sensors may be ultrasonic sensors, LIDAR, RADAR, or other suitable proximity detector sensor. The collision avoidance sensors may be mounted on the second trailer 12b or may be mounted on the apparatus 14 in a way that permits the dolly sensors to see past the edges of the second trailer 12b for collision avoidance.

[00153] In some examples, a steering device may be coupled to the steering mechanism. The steering device may be communicatively coupled to the controller for locally or remotely steering the apparatus 14 by an operator (e.g. driver), the apparatus 14 being operable by the steering device to shunt the second trailer 12b around a staging area when the second trailer 12b is disconnected from the towing vehicle 13. The steering device may comprise a steering wheel or joystick mounted to the apparatus 14. The steering device may be a wireless communication device for wireless communicating with the controller, such as a wireless remote control having a steering wheel or joystick, smartphone or tablet, the wireless

communication device having control software for providing a user interface for steering the apparatus via user interaction therewith.

[00154] The collision avoidance sensors may be communicatively coupled to the controller. The collision avoidance sensors may be mounted to the apparatus or the second trailer to detect any objects within a threshold distance of the apparatus or the second trailer, and the controller configured to generate an alert when an object is detected within the threshold distance of the apparatus or the second trailer. Alternatively, the controller may be configured to send a notification of the steering device when an object is detected within the threshold distance of the apparatus or the second trailer, with the steering device configured to generate an alert when an object is detected within the threshold distance of the apparatus or the second trailer. The alert may be one or more of an audible alert, visual alert, or physical alert such as a vibration.

[00155] Turning to Figure 6, another schematic embodiment of an active converter dolly 14 in a B train configuration 600 is shown, in which the active converter 14 is part of the first trailer 12a. In this configuration, the fifth wheel assembly 28 sits on the rear axle of the first trailer 12a. Similar to the embodiment discussed previously and shown in Figure 1, which may be referred to as an A train configuration, the active converter dolly 14 in a B train configuration 600 is capable of adding power to drive the trailers and to being able to capture energy from regenerative braking. In B train active dollies, at least one of the axles may be electrified as discussed above for adding power to drive the trailers and to being able to capture energy from regenerative braking. Similarly, in A train active dollies with multiple axles, at least one of the axles may be electrified. Electrifying more axles may improve the fuel efficiency and performance of the active converter dolly apparatus 14.

[00156] Turning to Figure 14, a perspective view of a second example embodiment of an active convertor dolly is shown.

[00157] In this embodiment, the active converter dolly apparatus 614 includes the same overall structure as the apparatus 14 of Figure 2a : a frame 24 including a wheel supporting portion 9 and tongue portion 8; a first trailer connection assembly 7, illustrated here as a hitch 26; two sets of wheels 22 mounted to the wheel supporting portion 9; and a second trailer mounting assembly 6 in the form of a fifth wheel assembly 28 mounted to the top of the frame 24.

[00158] However, several of the components are have been relocated or altered in this embodiment relative to the embodiment of Figure 2a. The energy storing device 32 of Figure 2a is replaced here with a battery array 632, and the enclosure 34 is not shown in this illustration. The support leg or apparatus 27 of Figure 2a is shown here in the form of a detachable trailer jack 627. The trailer jack 627 can be used to raise or lower the height of the tongue portion 8 of the apparatus 14 using the included hand-operated crank 650. This embodiment of the apparatus 14 also includes a trailer jack drive 652 coupled to the kinetic energy recovery device 30. The trailer jack drive 652 is powered by the battery array 632, operable to raise or lower the trailer jack 627 as an alternative to the crank 650.

[00159] The various components of the kinetic energy recovery device 30 are also relocated in this embodiment from the wheel supporting portion 9 to the tongue portion 8. By locating the battery array 632 and kinetic energy recovery device 30 to the tongue portion, or to an area intermediate the first trailer connector assembly 8 and the second trailer connector assembly 6, this

embodiment locates these components farther from the underbody of the second trailer, thereby potentially facilitating cooling and reducing mechanical interference from the second trailer 12b. By locating the battery array 632 and sensitive components of the kinetic energy recovery device 30 to a location intermediate the first trailer connector assembly 8 and the second trailer connector assembly 6, the likelihood of mechanical interference from the first trailer 12a is also reduced. In some embodiments, for example, the tongue portion 8 defines an opening wherein the battery array 632 and other components of the kinetic energy recovery device 30are disposed within the opening and secured to the frame 24.

[00160] Figure 15 is a rear view of an example dolly apparatus 14 with an in wheel motor configuration, showing details of the axle and wheel configuration. The apparatus 14 has a first wheel 102 on a first side of the frame 24, driven by a first motor-generator 106 and connected to a first drive shaft 110. A first wheel speed sensor 70 is located at the first wheel assembly. The first wheel speed sensor 70 may be attached to the first wheel 102 or the first drive shaft 110 for collecting wheel speed data and providing it to the controller 502. The apparatus 14 also has a second wheel 104 on a second side of the frame 24, driven by a second motor- generator 108 and connected to a second drive shaft 111. A second wheel speed sensor 71 is located at the second wheel assembly. The second wheel speed sensor 71 may be attached to the second wheel 104 or the second drive shaft 111 for collecting wheel speed data and providing it to the controller 502.

[00161] Figure 16 is a rear view of an example active converter dolly apparatus 14 with a two axle-differential configuration, showing details of the axle and wheel configuration. The converter dolly 14 includes a two-part central axle split into a first drive shaft 110 and a second drive shaft 111, one electric motor-generator 36, and a differential 116. The first drive shaft 110 and second drive shaft 111 may in some embodiments be releasably locked together by an axle locking device 114 in response to a wheel-locking control signal from the controller 502. When locked together, the first drive shaft 110 and second drive shaft 111 rotate as a single axle.

[00162] In the differential configuration of Figure 16 there may be less space to house the enclosure 34 between the wheel sets, however, the other aspects remain the same. The enclosure 34 may require an adaptation to permit the drive shafts 110,111 to traverse the compartment, and the motor-generator 36 also needs to be connected through the differential 116. However, even with a central transverse axle, this embodiment may include the aerodynamically efficient, lightweight, waterproof and corrosion resistant battery enclosure 34 and an instrumentation package of appropriate modules to allow for interfacing with the towing vehicle motor control system, to interface with the proximity sensors to provide a back-up steering system, to interface with a remote controller to permit the dolly to be remotely steered around even when disconnected for the tractor trailer train and will allow the dolly to operate equally well in forward or reverse.

[00163] Figures 17 to 20 show the operation of the controller 502 in relation to other vehicle systems while operating in the various modes described briefly above.

[00164] In Figure 17, an example operation of the stability-assistance mode is shown as a flowchart. At step 1702, the controller 502 operates to detect a low- traction condition based at least in part on data provided by the first wheel speed sensor 70, the second wheel speed sensor 71, the gyroscope sensor 64, and the linear accelerometer 74. In some embodiments, this detection 1702 may be based entirely on data from the wheel speed sensors 70, 71 indicating that one wheel is rotating significantly faster than the other, for example that the difference between the speed of the first wheel 102 and the speed of the second wheel 104 is above a certain threshold. In other embodiments, this wheel speed data may be

supplemented or replaced in the detection step 1702 by angular acceleration data from the gyroscope sensor 64 and linear acceleration data from the linear accelerometer 74 indicating that the yaw acceleration (i.e. angular acceleration about a vertical Z-axis) of the dolly 14 has increased or is above a certain threshold while the dolly 14 is moving forward.

[00165] When the low-traction condition has been detected at step 1702, the controller then adjusts the motive rotational force applied to the wheels at step 1704. Depending on the configuration of the dolly 14, the adjustment may be to the motive rotational force applied to one or both wheels of the apparatus 14.

[00166] For example, in a differential configuration such as the one shown in Figure 16, the electronic locking device 114 will lock the differential drive, essentially turning the two drive shafts 110,111 into a single solid axle. Such action will transfer the motive rotational force to the wheel with traction and therefore reduce the instability of the converter dolly 14. In some embodiments, when the low-traction condition is detected, the system will also cut power to the motor- generator 36 to reduce the motive rotational force output to the wheels 102,104. This may be seen as the application of Vehicle Control System or Vehicle Stability System technology to the active converter dolly 14.

[00167] In an in-wheel motor-generator configuration such as the one shown in Figure 15, the motive rotational force or motive rotational force applied to the first wheel 102 by the first motor-generator 106 may be reduced if the first wheel 102 is detected to be slower than the second wheel 104, and vice-versa with respect to the second motor-generator 108 and second wheel 104. Alternatively or in addition, the motive rotational force or motive rotational force applied to the slower wheel may be increased, or regenerative braking may be applied (or increased in intensity) to the faster wheel.

[00168] When yaw acceleration is detected as part of the low-traction condition at step 1702, the adjustment of motive rotational force or motive rotational force at step 1704 may comprise adjusting wheel motive rotational force to counteract the yaw acceleration. For example, when clockwise yaw acceleration is detected, the motive rotational force or motive rotational force applied to the first wheel 102 on the left side of the frame 24 may be decreased, or the motive rotational force applied to the second wheel 104 on the right side of the frame 24 may be increased to generate offsetting counter-clockwise yaw acceleration.

[00169] At step 1706, the controller 502 detects that the low-traction mode is no longer present or has been addressed, and the corrective action is discontinued, returning the dolly 14 to a baseline operating mode in which the motive rotational force applied to each wheel follows the standard rules set out above with regard to the various operating modes (drive mode, generator mode, passive mode). This determination may be based on wheel speed data and/or angular and linear acceleration data.

[00170] In Figure 18, an example operation of the electric-vehicle (EV) mode is shown as a flowchart. Electric-vehicle mode may be used by the dolly apparatus 14 to drive the tractor-trailer vehicle 10 forward in low-speed conditions, such as slow- moving traffic congestion conditions, with or without the use of the drive of the towing vehicle (e.g., internal combustion engine) being engaged. At step 1806, the controller 502 operates to detect a set of conditions based at least in part on vehicle data 1801 received from the towing vehicle 13 and optionally the SOC of the energy storing device 32 (e.g., battery). The vehicle data 1801 may be received in some embodiments over the electrical connection 72 or the communication interface 68. As noted above, the dolly apparatus 14 may be connected to the OBD II port of the towing vehicle 13 to monitor the real-time operating information from the CAN bus of the towing vehicle 13.

[00171] In the illustrated example, the vehicle data 1801 includes vehicle braking data 1802 indicating the degree of braking being applied by the driver of the towing vehicle 13, and vehicle speed data 1804 indicating the speed of the towing vehicle 13 or the entire tractor-trailer vehicle 10. The braking data 1802 may indicate in some embodiments the degree of depression of the brake pedal of the towing vehicle, from 0% depression (no braking) to 100% depression (full braking).

[00172] In some embodiments, the conditions for activation of electric-vehicle mode include detecting at step 1804: that the degree of braking is below a braking threshold, that the speed of the vehicle is below a speed threshold, and that the charge of the energy storing device 32 is above a SOC threshold. If these

conditions are met, the electric-vehicle mode is activated at step 1808. The braking threshold, speed threshold and SOC threshold may vary between embodiments. For an example, the braking threshold may be between 10% and 50% braking, between 20% and 40% braking, between 25 and 35% braking or approximately 30%. For another example, the speed threshold may be between 5 km/h and 45 km/h, between 10 km/h and 40 km/h, between 20 km/h and 30 km/h, or approximately between 25. For yet another example, the SOC threshold may be between 10% and 40% of a full charge level, between 20% and 30% of a full charge level, or approximately 25% of a full charge level.

[00173] In electric-vehicle mode, the motor-generators 36 of the dolly 14 are used to drive the apparatus 14, and therefore the tractor-trailer 10, forward. For example, a first motor-generator 106 and second motor-generator 108 may be used to drive wheels on both sides of the dolly 14 forward to move the vehicle in slow speed conditions.

[00174] The controller 502 in some embodiments may deactivate electric- vehicle mode at step 1810 upon detecting that the conditions detected at step 1806 no longer hold. For example, if the driver applies the brakes above the braking threshold, or if the charge level of the energy storing device 32 drops below the SOC threshold, or the speed of the vehicle rises above the speed threshold, then the electric-vehicle mode may be deactivated.

[00175] In Figure 19, an example operation of the anti-idling mode is shown as a flowchart. Anti-idling mode may be used by the apparatus 14 to power various electrical systems of the tractor-trailer 10 using the energy storing device 32 when the vehicle is idling, temporarily stopped or parked, without having to run the engine of the towing vehicle 13 to maintain power. High voltage cables may be used to connect the apparatus 14 to the first trailer 12a and through the first trailer 12 to the towing vehicle 13. A DC-DC converter may be used by the towing vehicle to step down the high voltage of the energy storage device 32 (i.e., battery) to match the low voltage system of the auxiliary components of the towing vehicle 13. A control system may be used to automatically shut off the engine of the towing vehicle 13 and subsequently restart the engine. Depending on the characteristics of the the towing vehicle 13, the engine starter may be modified from manufacturer's condition so that the apparatus 14 may operate in the anti-idling mode.

[00176] The controller 502 operates to detect the conditions for activation of anti-idling mode at step 1906, based at least in part on received vehicle data 1901. With respect to anti-idling mode in the illustrated example, the vehicle data 1901 used by the controller 502 at step 1906 includes vehicle transmission data 1902 indicating the state of the transmission of the towing vehicle 13 (e.g. whether the engine is on but the towing vehicle 13 is in park, neutral, reverse, or a drive gear). In some embodiments, such as some embodiments configured to be used with a towing vehicle 13 with a manual transmission, the vehicle data 1901 may also include towing vehicle parking brake data 1904 indicating the state of the towing vehicle's parking brake (e.g. engaged or not engaged).

[00177] Anti-idling mode may be activated by the controller 502 upon detecting at step 1906 that the towing vehicle 13 is stopped for at least a

predetermined amount of time, the towing vehicle 13 is in a parked state, or both. The predetermined amount of time may vary between in embodiments. In some embodiments, the predetermined amount of time is between 10 and 60 seconds, between 15 and 45 seconds, or approximately 30 seconds. Detecting that towing vehicle 13 is in a parked state is in a parked state may, in some embodiments, comprise detecting that the towing vehicle 13 has its transmission set to a parked state based on the transmission data 1902. In other embodiments, such as some embodiments configured to be used with a towing vehicle 13 with a manual transmission, this may comprise detecting that the transmission is in park gear and optionally detecting that the parking brake is engaged.

[00178] When anti-idling mode is activated at step 1908, the stored power in the energy storing device 32 may be used to power one or more electrical systems of the tractor-trailer 10 at step 1910. The power may be relayed via the electrical connection 72. Examples of such systems include HVAC systems used in the towing vehicle 13; refrigeration or HVAC systems used in the first trailer 12a or second trailer 12b; lights, stereo system, or other user amenities in the towing vehicle 13; lights on the towing vehicle 13 or the trailers 12a, 12b; or any other electrical system on the towing vehicle 13, first trailer 12a, second trailer 12b, or dolly apparatus 14. The voltage of the energy storing device 32 may be significantly higher than the systems being powered in some embodiments; in such

embodiments, the electrical connection 72 may include one or more DC-DC converters or transformers as described above for stepping down the voltage.

[00179] In some embodiments, the controller 502 may further operate to shut off the engine of the towing vehicle at step 1912 in response to activating anti idling mode. The controller 502 may send an engine deactivation signal via the communication interface 68 or electrical connection 72, as further described above, to deactivate the engine of the towing vehicle 13 to prevent idling. In other embodiments, the engine may be shut down manually or some other system may be used to shut down the engine when anti-idling mode is active. Some

embodiments may also be configured to restart the engine using a process as described above.

[00180] In Figure 20, an example operation of the backup-assistance mode is shown as a flowchart. Backup-assistance mode in the illustrated example operates in a similar manner to stability-assistance mode, but generally operates at lower speeds and is activated under different conditions. Its purpose is to keep the tractor-trailer straight when backing up and to prevent jack-knifing conditions whereby one or more of the trailers 12a, 12b deviates from the longitudinal orientation of the tractor-trailer vehicle 10 as a whole. ("Jack-knifing" refers to a scenario in which the axes of a trailer and its towing vehicle become increasingly misaligned, until the angle of misalignment exceeds 90 degrees and the towing vehicle and trailer fold together like a hinged folding jack-knife.)

[00181] At step 2002, much like in low-traction detection step 1702 of Figure 17, the controller 502 detects that the wheels of the dolly 14 are moving at different speeds and/or are creating yaw acceleration of the dolly 14, using a combination of wheel speed, angular acceleration, and/or linear acceleration data.

If this happens while the dolly 14 is moving backward, it would indicate that the dolly is turning. Although there may be times that a driver intends to cause the trailers to turn when backing up, this intention may in some embodiments be indicated by a user input communicated to the controller 502 as vehicle data, much like vehicle data 1801 or 1901. The process illustrated in Figure 20 assumes that backup-assistance mode has not been deactivated by the driver to allow the trailers to turn when backing up.

[00182] If the controller detects at step 2002 that the dolly is turning (i.e. that a jack-knifing condition is present), motive rotational force applied to the wheels is adjusted at step 2004 much like the remedial motive rotational force adjustments applied in stability-assistance mode in Figure 17. For example, if the dolly is turning to the right (counter-clockwise) while backing up, the motive rotational force applied to a right-hand-side second wheel 104 by a second motor-generator 108 may be increased, thereby causing the dolly 14 to experience yaw acceleration clockwise. Other variations on motive rotational force adjustment using the motor functions and/or the braking functions of the motor-generators 36 are as described above with respect to stability-assistance mode.

[00183] In one aspect, the apparatus of the disclosure provides advantages over current converter dollies. For instance, in some embodiments, the active converter dolly 14 of the disclosure reduces fuel consumption emission levels. In some embodiments, the active dolly may operate to assist in fulfilling a power demand (acceleration, grade ability and maximum, or highest, cruising speed) of the tractor-trailer 10. In some embodiments, the disclosure is directed at

maintaining a battery's state of charge (SOC) within a reasonable level, for self- sustaining operation whereby no external charging is required. Also, the disclosure is directed at an active converter dolly that may be able to harvest braking energy to generate electricity.

[00184] The stability-assistance mode described above allows the dolly to assist the tractor-trailer vehicle under low-traction road conditions. Low-traction road conditions present several risks to tractor-trailer vehicles. One danger is skidding, in which the towing vehicle skids (i.e. its tires lose traction with the road surface and the vehicle continues forward motion). This can be corrected by a driver steering into the skid and deactivating the brakes. A second danger is known as trailer slew or trailer swing. Figure 22 shows an example trailer slew event. In Figure 22(a), the trailer 2202 is experiencing a trailer slew event, in which the wheels of the trailer lose traction on the road surface and begin to skid. This causes the trailer 2202 to swing or slew to the side in direction 2206, particularly if the trailer 2202 has more momentum than the towing vehicle 2204, for example if the towing vehicle 2204 is braking more effectively than the trailer 2202. Figure 22(b) shows a driver recovering from a trailer slew event by releasing the brakes of the towing vehicle 2204 and driving forward (direction 2210), thereby pulling the trailer 2202 back in line and restoring its straight-ahead movement (direction 2208).

[00185] A third danger to tractor-trailer vehicles under low-traction conditions is the danger of jack-knifing, which can occur is a skid is not corrected. In the context of forward movement, this may be referred to as "forward jack-knifing" to differentiate it from the backward jack-knifing phenomenon described above in the context of backward movement of a tractor-trailer vehicle. Figure 21 shows a forward jack-knifing event. In Figure 21(a), the trailer 2102 has momentum in a direction 2106 that is diagonally forward and away from the centre-line of the towing vehicle, while the towing vehicle 2104 is attempting to recover from a skid by steering straight ahead in direction 2108. However, if the momentum of the trailer 2102 is too great, a forward jack-knife event may occur, as shown in Figure 21(b) : the trailer 2102 may continue moving diagonally forward and away from the centre-line of the towing vehicle 2104 in direction 2110, pushing the towing vehicle 2104 into a rotational movement until the towing vehicle comes into contact with the side of the trailer 2102.

[00186] As described above, the dolly's stability-assistance mode may assist in preventing trailer slew by correcting for any slew or swing of the secondary trailer when it begins. It may also assist in preventing the early stages of forward jack knifing by automatically compensating for dolly skid, thereby straightening out the alignment of the dolly with the secondary trailer.

[00187] However, there may be circumstances in which the engagement of the motor-generators on the dolly to provide additional torque to the wheels, as part of the stability-assistance mode or otherwise, may contribute to the risk of a forward jack-knifing event. Figure 23 shows an example road train at risk of one or more forward jack-knife events. Starting from the rear of the road train, the secondary trailer 2302 has momentum 2310 diagonally forward and away from the centre-line of the converter dolly 2304, which in this example is one of the converter dolly embodiments described above featuring a stability-assistance mode. In this example, the diagonal momentum 2310 of the secondary trailer 2302 is pushing the dolly 2304 diagonally forward in direction 2312, causing the wheels of the dolly 2304 to skid. In some embodiments, the stability-assistance mode might

compensate for this low-traction condition by applying more torque to right wheel 2320 than left wheel 2322 to try to straighten out the dolly 2304 and pull both the dolly 2304 and secondary trailer 2302 into alignment in a straight-ahead direction. However, in the illustrated example the primary trailer 2306 and towing vehicle 2308 are also at risk of a forward jack-knife event relative to each other, as the primary trailer 2306 has diagonal momentum 2314 and the towing vehicle 2308 attempts to correct its skid by steering straight ahead in direction 2316.

[00188] The danger presented in this scenario is that the stability-assistance mode of the dolly 2304 would activate, imparting torque to the dolly's right wheel 2320 to rotate the dolly 2304 in direction 2318 to align it with the momentum 2310 of the secondary trailer 2302, which could have the effect of increasing the diagonal momentum 2314 of primary trailer 2306 and increasing the chance of a forward jack-knifing event as between the primary trailer 2306 and the towing vehicle 2308.

[00189] A second scenario presenting a risk of a jack-knifing event is shown in Figure 24. Here, the road train is arranged in an arc such as may occur during a right-hand turn. The secondary trailer 2402 has momentum 2410, causing the dolly 2404 to skid in direction 2412. As in the scenario of Figure 23, the stability- assistance mode of the dolly 2404 may activate in this situation to rotate the dolly 2404 along direction 2418 to pull it into alignment with the secondary trailer 2402. However, in this scenario, the dolly 2404 is already misaligned with the primary trailer 2406, and the forward momentum 2432 of the towing vehicle 2408 will continue to increase this misalignment by rotating the primary trailer 2406 in direction 2430. The rotation of the dolly along direction 2318 due to the activation of the stability-assistance mode would have the effect of increasing the

misalignment of the dolly 2404 relative to the primary trailer 2406, potentially rotating the dolly 2404 in direction 2418 while the primary trailer 2406 rotates in direction 2430 and eventually jack-knifing the dolly 2404 and the primary trailer 2406 when they reach or surpass a 90 degree misalignment with each other.

[00190] To prevent jack-knifing scenarios such as those described with respect to Figures 23 and 24, a converter dolly and/or one or more other vehicles in a road train may be equipped with a forward jack-knifing detection system to detect a jack-knifing risk condition of the tractor-trailer vehicle configuration. The forward jack-knifing detection system provides data to the dolly controller indicating a forward jack-knifing risk condition, in response to which the controller takes action to minimize the risk of a jack-knifing event.

[00191] In some embodiments, this response entails deactivating the drive mode of any motors or motor-generators of the dolly. In other embodiments, it entails deactivating the differential torque or braking applied as part of the stability- assistance mode (thereby preventing the rotation 2318 or 2418 of Figures 23-24). Some embodiments may also respond to a jack-knifing risk condition by applying brakes, such as air brakes or an antilock braking system (ABS) to prevent the skidding of the dolly and/or prevent the momentum of the dolly from carrying forward into the primary trailer (e.g. primary trailer 2406).

[00192] In some embodiments, the forward jack-knifing detection system is part of a converter dolly, such as one of the converter dollies described above, and is used to prevent jack-knifing between the dolly and the primary trailer. The forward jack-knifing detection system may comprise one or more sensors, such as wheel speed sensors, position sensors, rotation sensors, accelerometers, and gyroscope sensors. These sensors may be used to detect a jack-knifing risk condition between the dolly and the primary trailer based on one or more of: the relative positions, linear acceleration, angular acceleration, and/or velocities of the dolly and primary trailer; the positions, linear acceleration, angular acceleration, and/or velocities of other vehicles in the drive train; and the road conditions, such as low-traction conditions. The system may also make use of CAN bus data from the towing vehicle, such as velocity data, to the same ends.

[00193] As a first example of the use of sensors as part of the forward jack knifing detection system, the detection of a forward jack-knifing risk condition may be based on detection of an angle of misalignment between the dolly and the primary trailer. When the dolly is aligned in a straight line with the trailer, the angle of misalignment is considered to be zero, and in a jack-knife event at the coupling of the dolly and the primary trailer the angle of misalignment generally exceeds 90 degrees (i.e. the dolly passes through a position perpendicular to the primary trailer and ends up with the primary trailer doubled back against it). The angle of misalignment may be detected directly by, e.g., a rotation sensor situated at the coupling between the dolly and the primary trailer. In some embodiments, the force sensors attached to the pintle hook described above may be capable of effectively measuring the angle between the dolly and the primary trailer.

[00194] In other embodiments, the angle of misalignment may be determined indirectly, for example by detection of the relative positions of the rear vehicle (e.g. the dolly) and the front vehicle (e.g. the primary trailer). A position sensor may be used to sense a distance between a part of the rear vehicle and a part of the front vehicle. If this position sensor is properly calibrated - either by programming it with a predetermined sensed position corresponding to a zero degree angle of

misalignment, or by calibrating this zero point manually when the vehicles are coupled together - it can detect changes in the position which correspond to changes in the angle of misalignment. The position sensor may be a distance sensor, configured and positioned at a front corner of the rear vehicle and aimed to measure the distance to a corresponding (i.e. same-side) rear corner of the front vehicle. When the rear and front vehicles becomes misaligned, this distance would change by an amount corresponding to the angle of misalignment. For example, if a distance sensor were positioned at the front right corner of the dolly, measuring the distance to the rear right corner of the primary trailer, an increase in this measured distance would indicate misalignment due to a left turn, whereas a decrease in distance would indicate misalignment due to a right turn.

[00195] One example of a distance sensor suitable for this application is an optical sensor, such as a laser rangefinder, a camera array equipped with image- processing software to detect the distance of objects in the captured image, or a LIDAR array. Another example of such a distance sensor is a mechanical sensor in the form of a plunger, such as a plunger switch, which has a plunger biased forward and detects depression of the plunger as the distance to the front vehicle changes.

A further example of a distance sensor is a draw wire encoder, which is a sensor using a spooled cable or wire, with the spool biased to a spooled position. The free end of the wire is attached to the target location (e.g. the rear corner of the front vehicle, attached at the time of coupling between the two vehicles), and the draw wire encoder detects the length of unspooled wire as the distance between the spool and the target location changes.

[00196] More sophisticated positions sensor arrangements are also possible, and may also be used for other applications present in the dolly or rear vehicle. A rear vehicle equipped with a LIDAR array, for example a vehicle with autonomous operation or collision-detection capabilities, may be able to use the LIDAR array as a position sensor to detect the position of all or part of the rear surface of the front vehicle and convey this information to the controller in order to determine the angle of misalignment. Similarly, a rear vehicle and front vehicle equipped with gyroscope sensors may use the gyroscope sensors to detect their angles relative to each other if they are in communication with each other as described with respect to some embodiments above. [00197] Determination of the angle of misalignment, directly or indirectly, may be used by the controller on its own or in combination with other data to detect and respond to jack-knifing risk conditions. The controller may classify such rick conditions on a binary (yes/no) scale, on a multi-state scale, or on a continuous scale, and may use these classifications to determine how to respond. In one embodiment, the determination of jack-knifing risk is binary and is determined to be present when the angle of misalignment of the rear and front vehicles exceeds a predetermined angle. In other embodiments, this angle may be modified based on predetermined or dynamically detected characteristics of the vehicles, the road conditions, or other information.

[00198] More complex embodiments may combine the angle data with other data, such as data on the velocities and/or acceleration of the various vehicles in the road train, and/or information on the wheels speeds of the individual wheels of one or more of the vehicles. For example, some embodiments may determine the presence of a jack-knifing risk condition based on the angle of misalignment between the dolly and the primary trailer combined with data on the left and right wheels speeds of the dolly (as described above with respect to the stability- assistance mode). If a low-traction condition is detected at the dolly at the same time that the angle of misalignment exceeds a threshold, this is more likely to indicate jack-knifing risk than either of these factors alone. Similarly, some embodiments may use data from an accelerometer to determine the acceleration and/or velocity of one or more of the vehicles; a mismatch between the velocity or linear acceleration of a vehicle and its wheel position (or its yaw or angular acceleration as measured by a gyroscope sensor) is likely to indicate a skid, which increases the risk of a jack-knifing event and may be taken into account by the controller in addition to or in place of the angle of misalignment data in detecting and responding to potential jack-knifing risk conditions.

[00199] In other embodiments, the forward jack-knifing detection system may be used by one or more other vehicles in a tractor-trailer vehicle configuration or a road train, to detect jack-knifing risk conditions as between two adjacent vehicles. With reference to the example three-trailer road train of Figure 25, a forward jack knifing detection system could be installed on the tertiary trailer 2502 (or a later trailer in a higher-trailer-number train) to detect jack-knifing between the tertiary trailer 2502 and the second converter dolly 2504; another forward jack-knifing detection system could be installed on the second converter dolly 2504, either to detect jack-knifing between the second converter dolly 2504 and the secondary trailer 2506 or between the tertiary trailer 2502 and the second converter dolly 2504; another forward jack-knifing detection system could be installed on the secondary trailer 2506, either to detect jack-knifing between the second converter dolly 2504 and the secondary trailer 2506 or between the secondary trailer 2506 and the first converter dolly 2508; another forward jack-knifing detection system could be installed on the first converter dolly 2508, either to detect jack-knifing between the secondary trailer 2506 and the first converter dolly 2508 or between the first converter dolly 2508 and the primary trailer 2510; another forward jack knifing detection system could be installed on the primary trailer 2510, either to detect jack-knifing between the first converter dolly 2508 and the primary trailer 2510 or between the primary trailer 2510 and the towing vehicle 2512, and a further jack-knifing detection system could be installed on the towing vehicle 2512 to detect jack-knifing between the primary trailer 2510 and the towing vehicle 2512. Thus, each coupling between two vehicles in a drive train (of arbitrary length) may be monitored for risk of jack-knifing, either as part of the front or rear vehicle with respect to that coupling. The forward jack-knifing detection system in at least embodiment described above may be configured to deactivate all motors in the vehicle to the rear of the coupling where the jack-knifing risk is detected.

[00200] In some embodiments, the forward jack-knifing detection system and/or controller may be configured to collect jack-knifing risk data with respect to multiple couplings of a tractor-trailer or road train. For example, the controller of a converter dolly may be configured to communicate through a wired or wireless electronic interface with one or more other vehicles in the train, as described in detail above. This interface may allow the controller to collect data relevant to the determination of jack-knifing risk at one or more couplings, such as acceleration, velocity, braking, yaw, and individual wheel speed data of one or more other vehicles in the train, as well as data collected by one or more forward jack-knifing detection systems installed on those one or more other vehicles in the train.

[00201] Furthermore, some embodiments may give the controller the ability to control the drive and/or braking systems of one or more other vehicles in the drive train. An example embodiment may deactivate the motors or other drives of all driven vehicles to the rear of a coupling where a jack-knifing risk is detected, thereby maximizing the ability of the vehicles forward of the coupling at risk to pull the train back into a straight line with the rear vehicles piling up into a jack-knife configuration.

[00202] A forward jack-knifing detection system can be used as part of any towing vehicle-towed vehicle configuration, including road trains but also including a single-trailer configuration. It is potentially useful in any scenario involving a towed vehicle (such as a converter dolly or a trailer) that has at least one wheel that is driven rather than passive. Some trailers are equipped with drive means, such as motors, motor-generators, or drive trains coupled to a towing vehicle. These drive means may be used to drive one or more wheels or axles of the trailer to assist the towing vehicle in forward motion. A forward jack-knifing detection system could be potentially used with such a trailer to mitigate the risk of a one- trailer jackknife such as the scenario of Figure 21, or to mitigate the risk of jack knifing in road train scenarios such as those of Figures 24-25.

[00203] Thus, as described above, one or more controllers in conjunction with one or more forward jack-knifing risk condition detection systems may be deployed on a road train (consisting of a towing vehicle towing one or more towed vehicles such as trailers and converter dollies) to mitigate the risk of a forward jack-knifing event. The controller(s) and forward jack-knifing risk condition detection system(s) may determine the presence and/or degree of one or more jack-knifing risk condition(s) at one or more couplings of the road train based on data from one or more of the following : rotation sensors, distance sensors, other position sensors such as LIDAR, wheel speed sensors, gyroscope sensors, and accelerometers, as well as additional data on the vehicle, road conditions, driver, route, and other environmental factors, with this additional data being preprogrammed, detected, or manually or dynamically calibrated. In response to a determination by the

processor(s) and/or the forward jack-knifing risk condition detection system(s) of a forward jack-knifing risk condition, the controller may respond by executing one or more of the following steps: reducing or eliminating the amount of torque or motive force applied by the motors to the wheels of one or more of the vehicles located behind the coupling at risk of a jack-knifing event; deactivating braking of one or more skidding vehicles located behind and/or in front of the coupling at risk of a jack-knifing event; activating braking, such as an antilock braking system, of one or more vehicles behind or in front of the coupling at risk of a jack-knifing event;

and/or engaging the stability-assistance mode for one or more vehicles behind or in front of the coupling at risk of a jack-knifing event.

[00204] Figure 26 shows a flowchart of a method 2600 executable by the controller of one or more active dollies or other self-powered towed vehicles in a road train for detecting and responding to a forward jack-knifing risk condition. At step 2602, data from a forward jack-knifing risk condition detection system 2601 is received by the controller. In an example embodiment, this could be simply data indicating the angle of misalignment between the dolly and the vehicle directly in front of it in the road train, as indicated directly by a rotation sensor or indirectly through distance data from a distance sensor. At step 2604, additional data 2603 are received by the controller from other sources, including stored data on vehicle characteristics, road conditions, and so on as described above. This could include, e.g., calibration data for a distance sensor indicating the zero-point distance (i.e. the distance corresponding to a zero degree angle of misalignment, as calibrated when the vehicles are first coupled). At step 2606, the controller makes a

determination as to the presence and/or degree of a forward jack-knifing risk condition. In some embodiments this could be simply determining whether the angle of misalignment exceeds a predetermined threshold, such as 45 degrees or 60 degrees. At step 2608, the controller responds to any determination of jack- knifing risk. This may simply involve cutting power to the motors 2610 of the converter dolly, thereby eliminating any forward drive of the dolly which could worsen the angle of misalignment of the dolly and the vehicle ahead of it. In other embodiments, it could involve other steps as described above, including activation of brakes 2612 on the dolly.

[00205] In some embodiments, the forward jack-knifing detection system may be used to detect backward jack-knifing risk conditions as well, alone or in conjunction with the backup assistance mode described above.

[00206] It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that various

modifications and alterations can be made to the present invention without departing from the scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims. Some of these have been suggested above and others will be apparent to those skilled in the art. For example, although a preferred form of the present disclosure includes separate motors for each wheel set, the present invention can also be used with a cross axle and differential in and single electrical power source, provided the same provides enough total energy to hybridize the truck travel.

[00207] In the preceding description, for purposes of explanation, numerous details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the

embodiments; however the specific details are not necessarily required. In other instances, well-known electrical structures and circuits are shown in block diagram form in order not to obscure the understanding. For example, specific details are not provided as to whether the embodiments described herein are implemented as a software routine, hardware circuit, firmware, or a combination thereof.

[00208] The steps and/or operations in the flowcharts and drawings described herein are for purposes of example only. There may be many variations to these steps and/or operations without departing from the teachings of the present disclosure. For instance, the steps may be performed in a differing order, or steps may be added, deleted, or modified.

[00209] The coding of software for carrying out the above-described methods described for execution by a controller (or processor) of the dolly apparatus 14 or other apparatus is within the scope of a person of ordinary skill in the art having regard to the present disclosure. Machine readable code executable by one or more processors of one or more respective devices to perform the above-described method may be stored in a machine readable medium such as the memory of the data manager. The terms "software" and "firmware" are interchangeable within the present disclosure and comprise any computer program stored in memory for execution by a processor, comprising RAM memory, ROM memory, erasable programmable ROM (EPROM) memory, electrically EPROM (EEPROM) memory, and non-volatile RAM (NVRAM) memory. The above memory types are example only, and are thus not limiting as to the types of memory usable for storage of a computer program.

[00210] All values and sub-ranges within disclosed ranges are also disclosed. Also, although the systems, devices and processes disclosed and shown herein may comprise a specific plurality of elements/components, the systems, devices and assemblies may be modified to comprise additional or fewer of such

elements/components. For example, although any of the elements/components disclosed may be referenced as being singular, the embodiments disclosed herein may be modified to comprise a plurality of such elements/components. The subject matter described herein intends to cover and embrace all suitable changes in technology.

[00211] Although the present disclosure is described, at least in part, in terms of methods, a person of ordinary skill in the art will understand that the present disclosure is also directed to the various components for performing at least some of the aspects and features of the described methods, be it by way of hardware (DSPs, ASIC, or FPGAs), software or a combination thereof. Accordingly, the technical solution of the present disclosure may be embodied in a non-volatile or non-transitory machine readable medium (e.g., optical disk, flash memory, etc.) having stored thereon executable instructions tangibly stored thereon that enable a processing device (e.g., a data manager) to execute examples of the methods disclosed herein. [00212] The term "processor" may comprise any programmable system comprising systems using micro- or nano-processors/controllers, reduced

instruction set circuits (RISC), application specific integrated circuits (ASICs), logic circuits, and any other circuit or processor capable of executing the functions described herein. The term "database" may refer to either a body of data, a relational database management system (RDBMS), or to both. As used herein, a database may comprise any collection of data comprising hierarchical databases, relational databases, flat file databases, object-relational databases, object oriented databases, and any other structured collection of records or data that is stored in a computer system. The above examples are example only, and thus are not intended to limit in any way the definition and/or meaning of the terms "processor" or "database".

[00213] The present disclosure may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the subject matter of the claims. The described example embodiments are to be considered in all respects as being only illustrative and not restrictive. The present disclosure intends to cover and embrace all suitable changes in technology. The scope of the present disclosure is, therefore, described by the appended claims rather than by the foregoing description. The scope of the claims should not be limited by the embodiments set forth in the examples, but should be given the broadest interpretation consistent with the description as a whole.