From parallel parking to highway cruising, electronic aids have crept into nearly every aspect of driving, but there’s one area that hasn’t gotten as much attention.
You can buy a full-size pickup truck, a trailer, and something expensive to haul on it whether you actually know how to tow a large load or not. But the 2016 Ford F-150 offers an electronic wing mate in the form of its new Pro Trailer Backup Assist feature.
This system can automatically steer the F-150 while backing up with a trailer. The driver merely twists a knob on the dashboard to set the desired amount of steering angle, and the truck does the rest.
As with automated park-assist systems, the driver keeps his or her hands off the wheel during the entire maneuver. Pro Trailer Backup Assist can also control vehicle speed “to enhance occupant comfort over various road surfaces,” Ford says.
That should help novice drivers with trailering, but Ford also says the system can benefit more experienced drivers by cutting the time needed to perform these maneuvers.
There’s no accounting for the ego deflation that comes with relinquishing control of what has traditionally been among the most manly of tasks to a machine, though.
Ford says the system was made possible by the addition of electric power steering to the current-generation F-150. The truck’s available suite of cameras and sensors help the system orient itself while backing up.
Pro Trailer Backup Assist is one of several driver-assistance features available on the F-150, which is one of the most teched-out trucks on sale right now.
There’s also a Curve Control feature, which limits vehicle speed if the computers decide that a driver is entering a corner too fast, as well as lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning with automatic braking.
All of that should help prevent drivers from dinging the F-150’s aluminum body. The material helps make the current model significantly lighter than its predecessor, but has also raised concerns about durability and repair costs.