Pebble semi-autonomous electric RV rings in the future of camping
Caravan camping is a big step up from ground tent camping in terms of comfort and convenience, but it's not without a few pitfalls of its own. California startup Pebble has turned to cutting-edge smart technology in an effort to smoothen out the rough edges. Its sleek, powerful all-electric Flow caravan comes loaded with a self-propulsion system powered by a solar-fed lithium battery with up to a week's worth of off-grid power. The towable panorama can park itself in uncomfortably tight campsite spaces and deploy its awning, stairs, lights and auto-leveling system at the push of a button, meaning less time making camp, more time enjoying it.
The popularity of RVs and digital nomad life, the quick advancement of electric vehicles and the evolution of autonomous drive technology have created a perfect storm that's been pulling Silicon Valley types and serious auto engineers into the RV market to create some cutting-edge products, from self-driving camping trailers to stylish, spacious smart home-grade camper vans. Prior to Pebble, we've seen Grounded's barrage of modular electric camper vans and trailers, the self-propelling Lightship L1 trailer, the solarized Maxwell Vanacea camper van, and a few ambitious electric pickup campers – and that's just this year.
Pebble itself counts Apple, Tesla and Cruise alums among its ranks, and they've put their collective intellectual capital toward creating a more intelligent RVing experience that looks to ensure nature and the great outdoors remain the focus. The 25-ft (7.6-m) window-lined Flow trailer shares many features with the Lightship L1, starting with an available self-propulsion system that carries the trailer's weight out on the road to eliminate drag on the tow vehicle. Users will be able to tow the 6,200-lb (2,812-kg, GVWR) trailer without worrying about dramatic EV range drops or gas vehicle mpg losses.
The dual-motor electric drive also underpins a remote-controlled self-parking system similar to the one Airstream played with on a conceptual self-driving prototype of its own. Flow owners can simply unhitch the trailer from the tow vehicle and use the Pebble app to spin, drive and maneuver the trailer into its parking space. When it's time to hitch back up, that same app can be used to position the trailer and drop the hitch onto the receiver, removing a manual hassle of caravanning.
After getting parked, Pebble's "InstaCamp" system automatically opens the Flow's outdoor awning, drops out the entry staircase, turns on the lights and levels the trailer out, taking care of several tedious setup tasks at the push of an app command. This way, owners can get to enjoying the trip more quickly. The same system works in reverse, streamlining camp breakdown to get campers back on the road come morning.
"So many people will never embark on an RV trip simply because they are intimidated by how to do it," said Pebble CTO Stefan Solyom. "The combination of advanced modern EV features and the Pebble app makes RVing easier than ever, whether you’re a seasoned RVer or just starting out."
Beyond navigating self-parking and activating InstaCamp, the Pebble app also provides control of the trailer's lighting, door locks, temperature and more. Pebble aims to make the entire trailer as easy and intuitive to operate as a smartphone.
All the Flow trailer's handiest smart features are wired to the large 45-kWh LFP battery pack integrated in its chassis. This battery also serves as the power source for the trailer's camping amenities. A 1,000-watt solar panel spread on the roof charges the battery during travel and when parked, and Pebble has equipped the Flow with AC/DC charging for it to be charged at home, at campsites and at EV charging stations. The Flow can also export power for camping equipment, plugging in a separate RV or EV, and working as a home backup.
Inside, Pebble has focused on versatility. In addition to the usual convertible dinette/double bed, the primary Murphy queen bed at the rear of the trailer folds away into the wall, providing access to a fold-down desk mounted to its underside. It's not quite as dramatic or well-equipped of workstation as the similar system Living Vehicle launched in 2022, but it does make more efficient use of space while furnishing digital nomads with a dedicated office area. Pebble has also wired the trailer for plug-and-play Starlink connectivity, making it easier to get reliable high-speed internet while out in the middle of the vast, wide world.
Continuing with the theme of versatility, the kitchen block against the wall supports indoor/outdoor cooking with help from a flip-up service window. A dual-burner induction cooktop, 4-in-1 convection microwave and full-size fridge ensure that wandering chefs have the tools they need.
Also pictured on board is a wide bathroom with electrochromic smart glass walls that switch between opaque and transparent.
Pebble launched Flow preorders on Thursday, and pricing starts at US$109,000. The self-propelled/parking comes as part of the "Magic Pack" that ups the total price to $125,000. Those eager to see the trailer in person will have their first chance at the LA Auto Show, which is open to the public between November 17 and 26. From there, Pebble plans to ready the trailer for delivery by the end of 2024.
The video below provides a quick peek at some of the Pebble Flow's more interesting features, including its remote-controlled operation, smart glass and flip-out workstation.