Ford chief Alan Mulally says the expanding number of new gadgets and technologies in cars is actually bringing dealers and customers closer together. As vehicles become more like personal electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops, the relationship between car owners and their local service dealerships is likely to get more closely tied, he says.
As pickups become more electronically sophisticated and the tools needed to troubleshoot and upgrade the trucks become more expensive and proprietary, you can bet technology will bring new vehicle customers and dealerships closer together. At a certain point, there won't be any other way find out what's going on inside all the computers.
The problem for Ford lately, however, is that a lot of that new technology is getting the automaker into some trouble with the likes of Consumer Reports' reliability survey that asks readers about their experiences with their vehicles. As new technology is rolled out, like the MyFord Touch system, it usually takes time for new owners to adjust, and the scores typically reflect that.
In a recent Automotive News article, Mulally said Ford will stay committed. In fact, the automaker is more likely to continue to add and improve its technology offerings. Mulally said Ford will likely head more in the direction of improved voice activation instead of the other two inputs: manual and touch-screen.
Whatever changes this might mean for the upcoming Super Duty or F-150 products, we like the idea of more advanced technology giving us more benefits, whether through readouts or just better power, fuel economy, versatility or safety. Here are five we'd like to see pretty quick.
With all the sensors and computer power in a new truck, why can't we get a simple readout of the load in the bed — basically, a scale? I've got a $20 one in my bathroom. Why can't we get a few pressure sensors in the bed mounts to tell us how much more weight we can safely pile in? It also might be a good idea of embossing each truck's gross vehicle weight rating on the dash.
Along the same lines — but we'd guess much less technologically difficult — why can't we get an idiot light in the gauge cluster that identifies when my tongue weight is past the maximum factory recommendation (flashing red) or close to the maximum limits (flashing yellow) or within manufacturer specs (solid green)? Fine, if you don't want to give me the exact weight number, at least make a sensor that can give me a signal as to how smart and unsafe I'm towing.
We love what Ford and Ram are doing with their internet-connected truck-control units. The idea of turning your pickup into a smartphone so you can endlessly personalize your readouts and information priorities to support what you need to do with your pickup makes sense to us. We'd also like to be able to monitor and control our engine performance parameters to tweak mpg, peak torque and cylinder deactivation.
It seems like the time is right (or at least it's heading that way fast) for a hybrid-electric heavy-duty pickup truck. We constantly hear bragging about how someone's truck is as powerful as a locomotive, so why don't we put a big electric generator in one and release all that monster torque? Use the smaller turbo-diesel to create electricity for batteries if you still want to keep those. The time seems right for the Loco Super Chief.
No matter what direction we go with hybrid pickup trucks, it seems logical we're not going to need the system all the time. Is there some way to make the electric drive system "plug-in-able" so we can use it only when we know the situation requires it? Maybe the gas or diesel part of the powertrain is detachable? To be more efficient, we're going to have to get much smarter about exactly what heavy stuff we carry all the time to save weight.
Just some thoughts. What are yours?