Tow ropes are a valuable tool for off-roading enthusiasts, providing a means to get stuck vehicles unstuck. However, Toyota may have just revolutionized the tow rope with their new retractable tow rope patent. The patent application, published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on August 1, 2023, describes a tow rope that can be rolled out from a reel installed on a vehicle, similar to a winch.
The concept behind this retractable tow rope is to allow drivers to adjust the length of the rope by reeling it in or out. This feature eliminates slack and creates the necessary tension to tow another vehicle. With conventional tow ropes, drivers have to drive the towing vehicle forward to remove slack and achieve tension. However, this approach is not always feasible in tight spaces, as noted by Toyota in the patent application.
According to the patent application, the tow rope can be made of either heavy-duty fabric like nylon and polyester or a steel cable. It is designed with notches for adjustability, allowing it to be secured to the tow hitch of the towing vehicle once it is reeled out to the desired length. At the opposite end of the rope, a hook or another connector is used to fasten the rope to the vehicle being towed.
The patent application also mentions that the reel housing can be located in the rear wheelwell of the vehicle. While this may not be the most convenient location, the application suggests that the reel could be designed to be retrofitted to existing vehicles or even made removable.
It’s worth noting that patent applications do not always guarantee the development of production-ready features. However, the timing of this patent application is quite interesting. Toyota has been expanding its lineup to cater to overlanding enthusiasts, with the addition of Trailhunter variants for its off-road models. The automaker unveiled the Tundra Trailhunter concept at the 2022 SEMA show and confirmed plans to include a Trailhunter grade in the redesigned 2024 Tacoma lineup. Additionally, the Land Cruiser is set to make a comeback in the U.S. for the 2024 model year, providing even more potential applications for this retractable tow rope technology.
If Toyota successfully implements this retractable tow rope system, it could significantly improve the towing experience for off-roaders. The ability to adjust the length of the tow rope with ease and eliminate slack would make it more efficient and convenient to tow vehicles in various terrains and situations. This innovation aligns with Toyota’s commitment to enhancing the off-roading capabilities of their vehicles and providing customers with reliable and practical solutions.
While it remains to be seen if and when this retractable tow rope system will be available in Toyota vehicles, the patent application offers an intriguing glimpse into the future of towing technology. Off-roading enthusiasts and adventurers may soon have an even better tool at their disposal to help them conquer any obstacle on their off-road journeys.