Ford has just thrown a curve ball at its competition. For 2016, the F-150 can be optioned with an assist feature that makes backing trailers an easier chore. It’s called the Pro Trailer Backup Assist and it utilizes the F-150’s new electronic steering system to remove the counterintuitive steering required when reversing with a trailer.

It works by a hand-operated knob mounted low on the center console. When the transmission enters reverse, the system becomes operational. The driver simply rotates the knob left or right – in the same direction he or she needs the trailer to go – and the electronic system takes over the steering. The Pro Trailer Backup Assist removes the need for the driver to counter steer the truck – a task that can sometimes befuddle the best of us.

Ford hasn’t announced how much the option will cost, but figure around $500. Likewise, Ford has not announced any other vehicles this system will be offered in, but it’s a sure bet Pro Trailer Backup Assist will come on the next generation Super Duty pickups due out as 2017 models.

The Super Duty will feature many of the same advancements found in the 2015 F-150, including its aluminum body and its all-new interior. Yes, Ford will no longer offer such separate interior designs between the half-ton and heavy duty trucks. This falls in line with both General Motors and Ram, as neither automaker offer separate interior designs.

Expect to find 2016 F-150s hitting showroom floors in the fall of 2015.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it Matters

Trailer backing is an art. Some folks are seemingly blessed with the ability, while others struggle to not cause property damage. Ford’s new Pro Trailer system will help these unblessed folks not embarrass themselves at the boat launch or in the driveway of their new house as they back in the moving trailer. First impressions are hard to overcome, after all.

Ford does say this systems isn’t just for the novices, but will also help speed up the time it take for an “expert” to back a trailer. Pro Trailer is Ford’s latest tech designed to help pulling a trailer easier. Everyone can appreciate the backup camera’s contributions to hooking up a trailer. Thankfully that system has been adopted across the pickup truck board. So has trailer sway control and integrated trailer brakes – both of which came from Ford’s R&D department.

For me, I would find it hard not to counter steer while backing a trailer. Here’s my pro-tip: Throw your right arm over the seat and look over that shoulder. Palm the wheel with your left hand for steering. Simply turn the wheel in the same direction as you need the back of the trailer to go. Don’t worry so much about what the truck is doing; just concentrate on the trailer. Of course, you’ll want to watch for object you may hit while swinging the front of the truck around. Small turns of the wheel are best and go easy of the throttle. Slow and steady wins this race.

2016 Ford F-150

2015 Ford F-150 - image 537938

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Press Release

Ford, America’s truck leader, pioneers towing innovation again by introducing Pro Trailer Backup Assist™ for the 2016 Ford F-150 – a segment-first technology that makes the challenge of backing up a trailer easier than ever for both experts and infrequent towers alike.

2016 Ford F-150 Will Get All-New Pro Trailer Backup Assist - image 631045

Backing up a trailer can be tricky. The truck’s front wheels have to be turned the opposite direction the customer wants the trailer to go. Turn too hard and the trailer can hit the vehicle, or jackknife. Whether working alone or with a spotter, backing up a trailer can be a tension-filled ordeal.

Pro Trailer Backup Assist helps take the frustration out of backing up. It works by letting the customer steer the trailer with a control knob while the truck steers its wheels and limits vehicle speed.

To operate Pro Trailer Backup Assist, the customer 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 system may limit vehicle speed to enhance occupant comfort over various road surfaces. The result is less time required to back up a trailer with improved confidence – it even helps towing experts by reducing time lost to maneuvering mistakes.

2016 Ford F-150 Will Get All-New Pro Trailer Backup Assist - image 631046

“Pro Trailer Backup Assist is a smart solution to save time and increase productivity for our customers,” said Doug Scott, marketing manager, Ford Truck Group. “Instead of struggling to back up their trailer, they can spend more time on the job or enjoying the lake.”

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.

Driver-assist features now on F-150

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.

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. 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.

2016 Ford F-150 Will Get All-New Pro Trailer Backup Assist - image 631047

Segment-exclusive 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. Collision warning 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.

Ford trailering innovations and leadership

Pro Trailer Backup Assist for the 2016 F-150 is the latest in a long line of segment-first and class-exclusive Ford truck innovations and capabilities that make trailer towing easier. Others include:

  • Segment-first integrated trailer brake controller, 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
  • Segment-first trailer sway control, 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
  • Segment-first smart trailer control module, 2015: First system to the truck’s productivity screen to show 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 have blown out
  • Class-exclusive dynamic hitch assist, 2015: A rearview camera feature that incorporates a dynamic line based on steering wheel angle in the display helps customers line up their truck and trailer with no spotter or need to exit the vehicle
  • Best-in-class light-duty towing, 2015: 2015 Ford F-150 can tow more than any other light-duty pickup truck – up to 12,200 pounds
  • Best-in-class heavy-duty towing, 2015: 2015 Ford F-450 Super Duty can tow more than any other heavy-duty pickup truck – up to 31,200 pounds
    2016 Ford F-150 Will Get All-New Pro Trailer Backup Assist - image 631048
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