Photo by Mike Antich.
I’ll admit that I jack-knifed my share of U-Haul trailers and learned (the hard way) that backing a trailer is a true art. Thankfully, Ford has come to the rescue of amateurs like me by turning trailering into a science. What I’m referring to is the all-new Pro Trailer Backup Assist for the 2016 Ford F-150, which makes backing up and parking a trailer easier than ever, regardless of your skill level. Ford debuted the Pro Trailer Backup Assist in May 2015.
To operate Pro Trailer Backup Assist, the driver rotates a knob to indicate how much the system should turn the trailer. The technology automatically steers the truck to turn the trailer the desired amount. The result is less time required to back up a trailer with improved confidence.
Leveraging advanced camera technology, Ford engineers developed the trailer tracking system strategy and tested it for almost a decade. Along the way, Ford earned five patents for the technology, with 10 more pending.
AF recently had an opportunity to drive the Ford F-150XL FX4 with Pro Trailer Backup Assist. Here is our report:
Pro Trailer Backup Assist joins a suite of driver-assist technologies already available on the all-new 2015 F-150. Among these features is Curve Control, developed exclusively by Ford engineers to help in those cases where customers may enter a turn too quickly. Curve Control helps drivers maintain control of their vehicle by automatically reducing torque and applying four-wheel braking. This can reduce vehicle speed by up to 10 mph in approximately one second – assisting drivers in staying on their intended path.
The available lane-keeping system is designed to help prevent a driver from drifting outside of the intended driving lane. The system is designed to detect the left- or right-hand road lane markings using a camera mounted between the windshield and rearview mirror, if he or she has left the lane. A vibration in the steering wheel is used to alert the driver. The system can also provide steering torque to help guide the vehicle back into the lane if needed.
Adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support uses radar in the front of the truck to measure the distance and speed of vehicles detected ahead. Using this information, the F-150 can automatically maintain a consistent following distance set by the driver. The speed will be maintained if adaptive cruise control is activated and the vehicle is traveling at least 15 mph. The collision warning system triggers visual and audio alerts if the system detects the following distance is diminishing too quickly and a collision may occur. It also pre-charges the brakes if the driver needs to stop suddenly.
Pro Trailer Backup Assist for the 2016 F-150 is the latest in a long line of Ford truck innovations and capabilities that make trailer towing easier. Ford provided a list of its trailering innovations, which is impressive and bears repeating.
- Integrated trailer brake controller in 2005: The first integrated, factory-installed trailer brake controller for the 2005 F-Series Super Duty, the Ford system ties into the truck’s brakes to activate the trailer brakes by sensing truck brake pressure.
- Trailer sway control in 2009: The first trailer sway control for the 2009 Ford F-150, the Ford system senses differences in movement between truck and trailer, using the wheel brakes in both vehicles to counteract sway.
- Smart trailer control module in 2015: Shows the driver which lights on a trailer connected to the truck aren’t working – meaning the driver or a passenger doesn’t have to get out of the truck and walk around the trailer to find lights that have blown out.
- Dynamic hitch assist in 2015: A rearview camera feature that incorporates a dynamic line based on the steering wheel angle in the display helps customers line up their truck and trailer with no spotter or need to exit the vehicle.
All in all, these technologies can turn an amateur like me into a trailering pro.