Ford adds navigational assist to the new F-150
With Memorial Day weekend approaching, it’s time to launch that boat or back the trailer into the designated camping spot.
Experienced towers know to steer the truck one way to get the trailer to go in the opposite direction. Not easy, but the maneuvers can be mastered with practice.
For the 2016 model year, Ford is adding a trailer backup assist feature to the F-150 for backing up your trailer.
It is a first for the segment, said Mike Bell, a vehicle dynamics engineer, and largely consists of software and a control knob on the dashboard.
Once activated, shift into reverse, take your hands off the steering wheel. Turn a knob in the direction the trailer needs to go and let the truck automatically steer it onto place.
The driver must still work the accelerator and brake, but the truck will limit speed while backing up if necessary. To navigate, the driver has the traditional side mirrors as well as the view from the rear camera projected onto the screen in the dashboard.
“The sensation is that you are driving the trailer,” said Brad Hochrein, Ford chassis controls supervisor.
It takes a step out of the mental calculation, said Don Mattern, senior engineer who led the development of the feature for which Ford has five patents and another 10 pending.
“For the amateur truck tower, it is a big improvement in control and safety in helping you master the art of backing up a trailer which is quite intimidating for people,” said analyst Dave Sullivan of AutoPacific.
Greg Dombrowski of Roseville is an avid fisherman who bought a 15.5-foot KingFisher in 1988 and has been towing and launching the same boat ever since.
“I have no problems backing in,” said the veteran who was at a Trenton marina Tuesday. But he thought the backup assist is a “cool idea” and said he would pay $200 for the option so his less-experienced son could drive the truck and Dombrowski could get in the boat for a smoother launch.
There is some legwork to set it up. A sticker needs to be applied to the trailer that the backup camera on the truck can read. And the owner needs to take four measurements of the trailer and program them into the car’s system.
The truck can store the dimensions of up to 10 different trailers. They all show up on the instrument cluster when the trailer backup assist program is turned on and the driver selects which one he is towing.
It is an idea that dates back a decade and which the advanced engineering team started working on about eight years ago, said Hochrein. Development got serious about three years ago.
The feature will be available on all trim levels of the 2016 F-150, said Brandt Coultras, F-150 consumer marketing manager.
It will likely add about $200 to the cost of the existing trailer tow package that costs $695. It can also be ordered as a standalone feature on the base XL trim level.