Ford is using AI to make one of the worst parts of towing a little easier. Ford Pro Trailer Hitch Assist lets the truck line up with the hitch for you — with nothing more than the push of a button.
Hey, I know you’re the best backer-upper ever. You’ve never had a problem hitting that ball hitch on the first go. Even with your eyes closed, it’s a snap.
For the rest of us, backing up to a hitch ball is a bit of a pain. Especially if someone else is watching. Watching someone else back up to the hitch is almost as popular an RV park pastime as watching a new camper back into their space.
Rear-facing cameras have made the job a whole lot easier — and turned a two-person job into a solo endeavor — but Ford knew it could make the job even easier than that.
Let Ford Do the Work
All you have to do is press and hold a button. You can watch what’s happening on the truck’s center screen as the rear parking sensors, cameras, and other high-tech towing wizardry does their work.
Ford talks about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, but here’s what matters: The truck knows where it is and it can see your hitch ball and the trailer hitch.
You do have to confirm that the trailer’s hitch is higher up than your hitch ball. Pro Trailer Assist won’t save you if you don’t have the heights set correctly.
Then algorithms in the truck’s computer systems figure out the best way to get the hitch ball to that perfect spot under the trailer’s coupling. The truck will steer itself and use gentle acceleration, starting from up to about 20 feet away.
Ford says it makes hitching up easier. The automaker won’t judge you, saying the feature is great for professionals, too. How? It is quicker than the average driver to back up and that saves you time. It also just saves you a lot of hassle if you miss it on the first go when trying to do it yourself.
Cut Fleet or Camper Stress
If you’re a fleet operator or business owner, it helps you by making sure you’re a little less worried about that new employee taking the company truck for the first time.
Ford collected lots of data from its trucks to help develop the algorithms that make the backup system work. The company tested a wide range of trailers of different sizes and types.
It also tried out the system on different terrain conditions as well as with varying weather. There’s no point in a system that only works on flat asphalt on a sunny day.
Over the Air Updates for Future Improvements
The system benefits from Ford’s over-the-air update system, too. The automaker said that its Power-Up software updates will help improve the system over time. Learning even more about backing up with experience.
If you don’t want the computer to do everything, the F-150 still offers Dynamic Hitch Assist guidance. With that one, you can watch a line on your center screen to mate the trailer and ball yourself. Switching from a wider view to a ball-specific one as you get closer helps a ton.
Pro Trailer Hitch Assist is already available on the F-150 (including Lightning) as well as Super Duty trucks. So, both light and HD truckers will be able to use the feature.
It gives Ford an impressively solid suite of trailer and cargo helper features. The list includes the trailer assist features as well as the Smart Hitch and Onboard Scales features that use the taillights to show you how close you are to maximum tongue weight and payload.