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Computer simulations to help drivers learn how to reverse trailers

A driver who used to unhitch his small trailer and move it by hand rather than face the challenge of reversing it has created a driving simulator programme aimed at helping others.

Jim Bedigan used geometry and his experience in software development and 3D graphics in the flight simulation industry, to create the Reverse my Trailer resource.

He told H&H he became interested when he found himself watching BBC2’s Caravanner of the Year, some years ago.

“I don’t own a caravan but it was surprisingly good viewing,” he said. “I was watching people trying to reverse; one yelling instructions while the other tried to get through a series of obstacles, and thought ‘There has to be a better way than this’.”

Jim created animated computer tutorials, which explain the principles involved, and a 3d simulator, which allows the driver to practise, with a bird’s-eye and mirror views.

“I started looking at the geometry and it went from there,” he said. “I thought it would be interesting to see if I could get the computer to work out what steering commands to use to get it to follow a particular path, then I got bored of looking at cubes, and thought I’d see if I could create realistic models.”

Jim said he has shown the programme to equestrian and caravanning bodies, to enthusiastic responses, and that the feedback from users has so far been good. He has also worked with trailer manufacturers, and put together a scenario designed to resemble a stable yard.

The programme is free to download.

“People keep asking what my financial model is, but I don’t have one,” he said.

“In the back of my mind, I wondered whether big companies, maybe caravan companies, might sponsor it, but there’s never been an intention to charge any money for it.

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“If someone wants to make a big donation towards development costs, of course I’d be very happy but it’s become a hobby; it’s been great fun.”

Jim, who studied physics at university, added that he used to be no great shakes at reversing himself.

“I was terrible!” he said. “I had a small trailer and I used to unhitch it and move it by hand because it would be too embarrassing trying to reverse it.

“I have since found out that the smaller the trailer, the harder it is to reverse; with a very long one, you’ve got a fighting chance.”

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