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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Trailer Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Identification and Sequencing System Using Wireless Technology


To develop low-cost commercial wireless technology allowing identification of trailer characteristics at the power unit.


In North America, power units (also known as tractors) often haul a variety of towed units during their operation. In most cases, the tractor and the trailer(s) do not stay coupled through the life span of the vehicles. Commonly, commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operations involve a tractor hauling different trailers as often as each trip. The typical lifecycle of a trailer is much longer than that of a tractor, and there are operational and economic factors that contribute to these market dynamics. The most important ramification is that tractors often have to haul a wide variety of old and new trailers with substantially differing characteristics. Little-to-no information (that can be automatically detected without driver input) is available to the tractor to identify what is being towed. This phenomenon is creating a technological barrier for the development or optimization of advanced safety systems for combination vehicles.


This project has researched wireless methods to identify critical trailer characteristics (such as lengths and vehicle identification numbers for each and every unit attached) at the tractor. During the Phase I study, the research team developed a low-cost, low-maintenance, easy-to-install, simple and modular framework of low-power, Zigbee electronics-based communications between the tractor and trailer units. With this prototype system, status on each trailer is communicated to the power unit: brake light circuit condition, antilock brake system condition, and activation of backup lights on trailers. On August 6, 2013, a Phase II Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) contract on this study was awarded to Intelligent Automation Incorporated. The Phase II study includes design, manufacturing, and extensive testing of pre-production level components and systems in volumes and field testing and fine tuning of system architecture. The Phase II effort also involves industry partnership, engagement, and further development of a robust commercialization plan.


Pre-production samples and commercial modules.


August 2012: Phase I SBIR research completed
August 2013: Phase II SBIR research commenced
October 2015: Phase II SBIR research completion


FY 2012: $750,000


Project is complete.


Intelligent Automation, Inc.