Title:
APPARATUS FOR DEVELOPING VEHICLE MANEUVERABILITY SKILLS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A driver training device that facilitates practicing vehicle maneuverability tasks to help develop vehicle maneuverability skills. In one embodiment, the device includes a plurality of boundary markers interconnected by flexible connecting members. The flexible connecting members are movable from first positions wherein the boundary markers are in a compact arrangement, to second positions wherein the boundary markers are located in a predetermined arrangement and spacing that facilitates practicing a vehicle maneuverability task.



Inventors:
Thomas, Faith (Cincinnati, OH, US)
Application Number:
11/829625
Publication Date:
01/29/2009
Filing Date:
07/27/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E01F9/677
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HARTMANN, GARY S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WOOD, HERRON & EVANS, LLP (CINCINNATI, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. (canceled)

2. A driver training device, comprising: five boundary markers; and six flexible connecting members, each connecting member interconnecting two of said boundary markers, said connecting members movable from first positions wherein said boundary markers are in a compact arrangement that facilitates storage and transportation of the device, to second, extended positions that define an arrangement of obstacles for use in driver training; said connecting members coupled to said boundary markers such that when said connecting members are moved to their respective extended positions, said boundary markers are positioned in a predetermined arrangement with predetermined spacing between said boundary markers that facilitates practicing vehicle maneuverability tasks; wherein in said second, extended positions, four of said boundary markers are arranged in a rectangular pattern, and a fifth one of said boundary markers is spaced from said rectangular pattern and is positioned along an axis of symmetry of said rectangular pattern.

3. The driver training device of claim 2, wherein said connecting members are selectively removably coupled to said boundary markers.

4. The driver training device of claim 2, wherein said connecting members comprise retractable belts.

5. The driver training device of claim 2, wherein said boundary markers comprise base portions adapted to be seated on a ground surface, and wherein said connecting members are coupled to said boundary markers at said respective base portions such that said connecting members are positioned adjacent the ground surface to facilitate vehicular traffic over said connecting members.

6. The driver training device of claim 2, wherein at least one of said boundary markers includes an upwardly extending post.

7. The driver training device of claim 6, further comprising a flag on said post.

8. The driver training device of claim 6, wherein said post is adapted to mount a connecting member thereon, wherein the driver training device can be reconfigured to position at least one of said connecting members at a location above a ground surface.

9. The driver training device of claim 2, further comprising an alarm associated with at least one boundary marker, said alarm configured to generate a signal when a vehicle contacts said boundary marker.

10. The driver training device of claim 9, wherein said alarm comprises a light.

11. The driver training device of claim 9, wherein said alarm comprises a sound.

12. The driver training device of claim 2, further comprising a visual aid positioned between at least some of said boundary markers and adapted to simulate an obstacle for practicing a vehicle maneuverability task.

13. The driver training device of claim 2, wherein each said boundary marker is interconnected to at least two other ones of said plurality of boundary markers by said flexible connecting members.

14. A driver training device, comprising: five boundary markers, each boundary marker including a base portion adapted to be seated on a ground surface; and six flexible connecting members, each connecting member interconnecting two of said boundary markers at said respective base portions such that said connecting members are positioned adjacent the ground surface to facilitate vehicular traffic over said connecting members; said connecting members movable from first positions wherein said boundary markers are in a compact arrangement that facilitates storage and transportation of the device, to second, extended positions that define an arrangement of obstacles for use in driver training; said connecting members coupled to said boundary markers such that when said connecting members are moved to their respective extended positions, four of said boundary markers are arranged in a rectangular pattern, and a fifth one of said boundary markers is spaced from said rectangular pattern and is positioned along an axis of symmetry of said rectangular pattern.

15. A driver training device, comprising: a plurality of boundary markers, each said boundary marker including a base portion adapted to be seated on a ground surface; a plurality of flexible connecting members, each connecting member interconnecting two of said boundary markers, said connecting members movable from first positions wherein said boundary markers are in a compact configuration, to second, extended positions for use in driver training; said connecting members removably coupled to said boundary markers at said respective base portions; and a plurality of vertical posts, each post associated with a respective boundary marker and adapted to receive a connecting member thereon; the driver training device having a first configuration wherein said connecting members are in respective extended positions adjacent the ground surface to facilitate vehicular traffic over said connecting members and to define a predetermined arrangement of said boundary markers with predetermined spacing between said boundary markers, and having a second configuration simulating a parallel parking training aid wherein at least one of said connecting members that was previously coupled to said base portions of said boundary markers is mounted on said respective posts and extends between said posts to prevent vehicular traffic therebetween.

16. The driver training device of claim 15, comprising five boundary markers interconnected by six connecting members, and wherein four of said boundary markers are arranged in a rectangular pattern and a fifth one of said boundary markers is spaced from said rectangular pattern and is positioned along an axis of symmetry of said rectangular pattern in said first configuration.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates generally to teaching devices, and more particularly to an apparatus for developing vehicle maneuverability skills.

BACKGROUND

Maneuvering vehicles in closely confined spaces, such as parallel parking or backing a vehicle into a narrow space, can be a daunting task for drivers of any skill level, but is particularly troublesome for new drivers. By practicing and becoming familiar with a vehicle, drivers can develop these maneuverability skills. However, dedicated equipment for practicing such maneuverability skills has heretofore been generally unavailable to permit drivers to practice the skills without damaging their vehicle or other parked vehicles.

Some states require unlicensed drivers to successfully pass a maneuverability driving test before they can proceed to take a road test and obtain a driver's permit or license. However, these states do not permit drivers to practice using state equipment or state facilities for conducting such maneuverability tests. Despite the importance of performing these maneuverability tasks, many driving schools spend very little time on instructing students in the skills of vehicle maneuverability, including parallel parking. These schools also generally do not make equipment available to students for practicing these maneuverability skills. Rather, students must practice on their own time and using whatever equipment or devices they can obtain. A need therefore exists for a teaching apparatus that allows drivers to safely practice maneuverability skills.

SUMMARY

A driver training device in accordance with the present disclosure overcomes the foregoing and other shortcomings of the prior art. The driver training device can be used to practice various vehicle maneuverability skills without the risk of damaging the driven vehicle or other, parked vehicles. While various embodiments are discussed in detail herein, it will be understood that the invention is not limited to these embodiments. On the contrary, the invention includes all alternatives, modifications and equivalents as may be included within the spirit and scope of the present disclosure.

In one aspect, a driver training device includes a plurality of boundary markers interconnected by a plurality of flexible connecting members. The flexible connecting members are movable from first positions wherein the boundary markers are in a compact arrangement that facilitates storage and transportation of the driver training device, to second positions wherein the boundary markers are spaced and arranged to facilitate practicing a vehicle maneuverability task.

In one embodiment, the device includes five boundary markers interconnected by six flexible connecting members. When the flexible connecting members are moved to their second positions, four of the boundary markers are arranged in a rectangular pattern, and the fifth boundary markers is spaced from the rectangular pattern and positioned along an axis of symmetry of the rectangular pattern.

In another embodiment, the boundary markers include vertical posts and the flexible connecting members are removably coupled to the boundary markers. The driver training device can be reconfigured by uncoupling at least one of the flexible connecting members from the base portion of the boundary markers and mounting the flexible connecting member on the posts.

The above and other objects and advantages of the present invention shall be made apparent from the accompanying drawings and the description thereof.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate exemplary embodiments of the invention and, together with a general description given above, and the detailed description given below, serve to explain the invention in sufficient detail to enable one of ordinary skill in the art to which the invention pertains to make and use the invention.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an exemplary driver training device.

FIG. 1A is a perspective view of the driver training device of FIG. 1, in a compact arrangement.

FIG. 1B is a perspective view of another exemplary driver training device in a compact arrangement.

FIG. 2 is an enlarged perspective view of an exemplary boundary marker of the driver training device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is an enlarged perspective view of another boundary marker, similar to the boundary marker of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is an enlarged perspective view of a fourth boundary marker for use with the driver training device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged perspective view of a fifth boundary marker for use with the driver training device of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view illustrating an alternative configuration of the driver training device of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 depicts an exemplary driver training device 10 that facilitates the development of vehicle maneuverability skills without the risk of damaging the driven vehicle or other parked vehicles. In the embodiment shown, the driver training device 10 includes a plurality of boundary markers 12, depicted herein as traffic cones, interconnected by a plurality of flexible connecting members 14. The flexible connecting members 14 are arranged and constructed such that when the connecting members 14 are moved to respective extended positions, the boundary markers 12 are positioned in a pre-determined arrangement with a pre-determined spacing between the boundary markers 12. In a first position of the connecting members 14, the boundary markers 12 are spaced closely together in a compact arrangement that is convenient for storage and/or transportation of the driver training device (see FIG. 1A). Thereafter, the connecting members 14 may be extended to second positions (FIG. 1) to define an arrangement of obstacles that facilitates the development of vehicle maneuverability skills.

In the embodiment shown, each boundary marker 12 includes a base portion 16 adapted to be seated on a ground surface, and an upstanding portion 18 projecting upwardly from the base portion 16. The boundary markers 12 include apertures 20 formed in the base 16 for connecting the flexible connecting members 14 between the respective boundary markers 12. The flexible connecting members 14 in this embodiment comprise retractable belts contained in belt housings 22, and each connecting member 14 interconnects two of the boundary markers 12. The belt housings 22 are attachable to the base portions 16 of the boundary markers 12 and terminal ends of the belts are secured to the base 16 of an associated boundary marker 12. When the boundary markers 12 are moved to the second positions, the belts of the flexible connecting members 14 are extended from the housings 22 until the predetermined spacing is reached. With the flexible connecting members 14 secured to the base portions 16 of the boundary markers 12, the flexible connecting members 14 are positioned adjacent the ground surface such that vehicles may be driven over the flexible connecting members 14 while the flexible connecting members 14 maintains the relative spacing and arrangement of the boundary markers 12.

When the user has completed practicing vehicle maneuverability skills, the boundary markers 12 may be moved from the extended, second positions back toward the first positions, as depicted in FIG. 1A, for convenient storage and/or transportation of the driver training device 10. FIG. 1B illustrates another exemplary embodiment of a driver training device 10a wherein the first position of the boundary markers 12 is a compact, stacked arrangement. In this embodiment, the driver training device 10a includes flexible connecting members 14a in the form of cords, ropes, or other similar flexible materials that are not retractable into a housing in the manner of the flexible connecting members 14 of FIGS. 1 and 1A.

While boundary markers 12 are shown and described herein as traffic cones, it will be appreciated that various other devices suitable for indicating the position on a ground surface and providing a base for mounting the flexible connecting members 14 may be used. Likewise, the flexible connecting members may comprise various other structures suitable for interconnecting the boundary markers 12 and defining the predetermined spacing between the boundary markers 12 in the second positions.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the driver training device includes five boundary markers 12 interconnected by six connecting members. The connecting members 14 are secured to the base portions 16 of the boundary markers 12 in such a way that when the connecting members 14 are moved to their respective extended positions (A, B, C, D, E), four of the boundary markers 12 (at positions A, B, C, and D) are arranged in a rectangular pattern and the fifth boundary marker 12 (at position E) is spaced from the rectangular pattern and is aligned with an axis of symmetry 19 of the rectangular pattern. In this arrangement, the boundary markers 12 define obstacles at locations corresponding to an arrangement utilized for conducting state vehicle maneuverability tests. In accordance with this test, drivers are required to steer a vehicle forward through the rectangle defined by the four boundary markers 12 at positions A, B, C, and D in a direction toward the fifth boundary marker 12 at position E. The driver must then steer the vehicle to the right or the left side of the fifth boundary marker 12 at position E, and stop when the rear bumper of the vehicle is even with the fifth boundary marker 12 and generally parallel to the axis of symmetry 19. From this stopped position, the driver must then steer the vehicle backward past the fifth boundary marker 12 at position E and through the rectangle defined by the four boundary markers 12 at positions A, B, C, and D until the front bumper of the vehicle is even with the two outermost boundary markers 12 at positions A and B and generally parallel to the axis 19.

Referring now to FIG. 2-5, various alternative embodiments of boundary markers for use with the driver training device of FIG. 1 will now be described. FIG. 2 depicts an exemplary boundary marker 12a, similar to boundary markers 12 depicted in FIG. 1, but further comprising a post or staff 24 extending upwardly from base 16 and upper portion 18 of the boundary marker 12a. A first end 26 of the post 24 is secured to the upper portion 18, and a second end 28 of the post 24 extends a distance above the upper portion 18. FIG. 3 depicts another alternative boundary marker 12b, similar to boundary marker 12a depicted in FIG. 2, but further comprising a flag 30 secured to the second end 28 of the post 24. The upwardly extending posts 24 of boundary markers 12a and 12b provide enhanced visibility of the position makers 12a, 12b to help drivers become familiar with the size of the driven vehicle in relation to the environment around the vehicle, thereby facilitating an increased awareness of vehicle size relative to available space. Because the posts 24 are more readily observable by drivers when the vehicle is positioned close to the boundary markers 12a, 12b, movement of the post 24 can be observed to provide an indication of contact with the boundary markers 12a, 12b.

FIG. 4 depicts another alternative boundary marker 12c, similar to boundary marker 12a, but further including an alarm configured to signal when the vehicle contacts the boundary marker 12c. In this embodiment, the alarm comprises a light 32 disposed on the second end 28 of post 24. The light 32 may be adapted to flash when a vehicle contacts the boundary marker 12c. FIG. 5 depicts another exemplary boundary marker 12d, similar to boundary marker 12c of FIG. 4, but wherein the alarm comprises a speaker 34 disposed at the second end 28 of post 24. The speaker 34 may be configured to emit a sound to signal when a vehicle contacts the boundary marker 12d.

In another embodiment, the driver training device of FIG. 1 may be reconfigurable to provide alternative arrangements of the boundary markers and flexible connecting members 14 suitable for practicing other vehicle maneuverability skills. FIG. 6 depicts an alternative arrangement of the driver training device, utilizing boundary markers 12a and flexible connecting members 14 arranged in an alternative configuration suitable for practicing parallel parking of a vehicle. In this embodiment, four cones are arranged in a generally rectangular pattern at positions A, B, C, and D as described above with respect to FIG. 1. Flexible connecting members 14, however, are moved from positions secured to base portions 16 to positions spaced above the ground surface.

In the embodiment shown, the flexible connecting members 14 are secured between respective boundary markers 12a at the first and second ends 26, 28 of posts 24. The fifth boundary marker 12a is located at position F, aligned with the first and third boundary markers 12a at positions A and C, instead of being positioned along an axis of symmetry of the rectangular arrangement of four boundary markers 12a. In this arrangement, the open rectangular space defined by the four boundary markers 12a at positions A, B, C, and D represents a space available for parallel parking a vehicle. The fifth boundary marker 12a, at position F, and the connecting members 14 extending between the fifth boundary marker 12a and the third boundary marker 12a, at position C, define the boundary of a vehicle adjacent the parallel parking space. In this arrangement, a driver may practice parallel parking by steering the vehicle adjacent the boundary markers at positions F and C, and then backing the vehicle into the space defined by the boundary markers at positions A, B, C, and D.

The flexible connecting members 14 extending between the first and second ends 26, 28 of the posts 24 provide a visual indication to the driver as to the location of an adjacent vehicle and the boundaries of the parking space. In particular, the connecting members 14 extending between the second ends 28 of the posts 24 provide visual aids to help drivers appreciate the locations of the boundaries of the adjacent vehicle and the parallel parking space. The connecting members 14 extending between the first ends 26 of the posts 24 may provide visual aids representing a curb, allowing drivers to practice using vehicle mirrors to understand the spatial relationship between the vehicle and the curb, as viewed through the mirrors.

While this embodiment has been shown and described using a boundary marker 12a, including posts 24, it will be appreciated that various other configurations of boundary markers, such as those depicted in FIGS. 3-5 may alternatively be used. The driver training device 40 may further include an additional visual aid, such as a simulated obstruction or other type of visual aid, that may be secured between the boundary markers. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 6, the visual aid is a banner 42 secured to the boundary markers 12a at positions F and C and supported on flexible connecting members 14. The banner 42 may include an image of a vehicle or other object to further enhance the simulation of parallel parking.

While the present invention has been illustrated by the description of various exemplary embodiments thereof, and while the embodiments have been described in considerable detail, they are not intended to restrict or in any way limit the scope of the appended claims to such detail. The various features discussed herein may be utilized alone or in any combination. Additional advantages and modifications will readily appear to those skilled in the art. The invention in its broader aspects is therefore not limited to the specific details, representative apparatus and method and illustrative examples shown and described. Accordingly, departures may be made from such details without departing from the scope of the general inventive concept.