Ford Unveils Pro Trailer Backup Assist for 2016 F-150

AB IMG_0567[1] II

By Aaron Bragman

Towing is an integral part of pickup truck ownership for some people. The ability to hitch up a trailer and haul whatever you like, anywhere you like is a measure of freedom that Americans are fortunate to enjoy. But towing also can be a major source of stress for truck owners, especially new ones who haven't yet mastered the skills necessary to operate a truck with a trailer attached — especially in reverse. Even the most seasoned trailering veterans can get confused sometimes: Which way do you turn the wheel to get the truck to go in the direction necessary to turn the trailer the way you want it? For old hats, it's challenging. For newbies, it's downright daunting.

Ford thinks it's come up with a solution, employing all of the electronic controls, cameras and sensors available on the redesigned F-150. Called the Pro Trailer Backup Assist, the system allows the pickup driver to use a knob on the dashboard to control where he or she wants the trailer to go, without touching the truck's steering wheel. Sounds like magic, doesn't it? Works like magic too.

There's some process and setup involved at first. When you order the new trailer tow package for 2016 (which is likely to cost a few hundred dollars more than the $695 it costs for 2015, according to Ford), you will get six special checkerboard stickers. To make the system work, you affix one of them to the trailer's tongue in sight of the truck's backup camera. Then you break out your tape measure because you have to input four metrics into the F-150's computer so that it knows exactly how big your trailer is. You'll measure the distance from the truck's license plate to the center hitch ball, from the center ball to the sticker, from the backup camera lens to the center of the sticker, and from the tailgate to the center of the trailer's axle (or the average of its multiple axles if it has more than one). Put all that info into the system, name your trailer, store it (the system can save info for up to 10 trailers) and you're ready to go.

The truck needs to know how big your trailer is as it uses that info to help guide the pickup-trailer combination using electronic steering controls. Using many of the same sensors and systems that Ford uses for its automatic parking and lane keep assist systems, it turns the wheel and limits your speed as you do nothing but guide the trailer using a knob on the dash and operate the brake and throttle. The more you turn the knob on the dash, the more the trailer turns. Let the knob go, and it returns to center, and as you back up it centers the truck on the trailer. Gone is the guesswork on how much to turn the steering wheel, in what direction, etc.

AB knob-turn II

For veteran trailering people, it's going to require some relearning and practice. For folks new to the activity, it will also require some practice — but it does simplify the task considerably.

I tried the system out at a marina just south of Detroit, where Ford brought a 2016 F-150 prototype and a MasterCraft ski boat hooked to a single-axle trailer (the system can accommodate trailers up to about 33 feet long). The assembled media were given a demonstration, then invited to try the system for themselves by backing the boat down the ramp into the water.

Having done my fair share of towing and trailering, I fell into the camp that needed to unlearn my backing-up skills. But I quickly found that with a little practice on a large, flat parking lot, I could accurately put the trailer where I wanted it in less time than it would have taken had I been sawing the steering wheel myself. It's eerie to watch the pickup spin its steering wheel freely — without you touching it — as you simply steer the trailer where you want it to go using the dash knob. But no more so than Ford's equally eerie yet accurate automatic parallel parking feature. And if you feel offended that the truck is now going to take over and replace your hard-earned backing-up skills with electronic nanny control, know that the system is entirely defeatable — simply don't switch it on when you back up or steer for yourself using the wheel instead of the knob.

We predict more owners will be using it than not, given the awesome convenience that the system provides. It will be a considerable boon to new truck owners and inexperienced towers looking to haul anything from their first camper to a race trailer. We're looking forward to trying it out in the real world as soon as 2016 F-150s become available.

The new feature will be available for order this summer at dealerships, but we don't expect to see any 2016 models on the ground until late fall or early winter. So far, Ford has five patents related to the new PTBA technology, with 10 more pending. photos by Aaron Bragman; manufacturer images



AB F150 ProTrailer Assist-05_MR II

AB F150 ProTrailer Assist-53_MR II

AB F150 ProTrailer Assist-50_MR II



That could be a marriage saver right there.

When did backing up a trailer become rocket science? It's a friggin' trailer! If you can't back it up, you shouldn't be towing it!

This is kind of cool, I'm glad I already know how to back up trailers!! LOL
That is why I like Ram and Ford, look at all the cool tech they they have come out with in the past few years on their trucks, what has the GM twins brought to market in the same time when they unveiled there new trucks......not much. LOL

Grab your lawn chair, your favorite beverage, and maybe a vid camera and head to the nearest busy boat dock..... And you will see why the post above yours is correct.

Ford needs this! Because the vast majority of Ford drivers are to stupid to figure out to backup a trailer let alone a car. This will be a perfect option for Luke and Scott!

Well..looks like the new F-150 now has 12 segment firsts instead of 11...way to go Ford..just imagine 12 features available on the F-150 not found on any other truck.

I loved this when I first saw it on the Atlas. It was also one of PUTC's favorite features.

Here are some of our favorite features:

Dynamic Hitch Assist: The center display screen will show with visual cues exactly where the hitch ball and trailer socket are located and make it an easy, one-time backup operation.
360-Degree Camera: This is a first for full-size pickups. With four separate cameras, the driver is able to see all around the truck from a bird's-eye view.
Trailer Backup Assist: With the same sensors that help with the hitch assist, the truck can be programmed to back up the vehicle and trailer into a designated space without the driver's hands on the steering wheel.

From: Star of the Show: Ford's Atlas Concept

Ford wins again!

Not really finding this necessary personally. But I also enjoy backing up trailers. I can think of a few guys that would like there life to be easier when backing up a trailer though so I guess it has it's purpose. I would prefer to do without it myself.

If I can back up a 53 foot trailer then I'm pretty sure I can handle anything in between. But like SuperDave said I could see this being helpful for the ladies who sometimes get asked to backup a trailer while the fella is watching or doing something else. This could really be great for the camping crowd.

Its sad seeing our society being more and more dependent on new technology where people expect the truck to be smarter than them.
When the truck becomes smarter than the driver the more stupid the driver becomes.
We are evolving to be too lazy to think, some of the greatest minds of past history would sit quietly and think about what could be. When we stop thinking for ourselves we become stupid.
Speaking for myself I would feel ashamed that I would have to rely on this towing aid, I would think of myself as a failure, its the pride and satisfaction knowing you can do it without help that makes you feel good.
Everybody likes to think they are smarter than the other guy or I can do it when you can't.
Ford is building a new F-150 for idiots and I don't want to be in that group.

Uh, I think Ford forgot something. It doesn't sound like this system will work with a gooseneck or fifth wheel setup. Oh well, my trailer would destroy a half ton's suspension anyway. Just one more electronic device that will fail eventually.

WOW- a ladder on the tailgate to get the fat asses in the box and now a dummy knob to back up a trailer. I see where FERDS going with this.

#3, you do realize everything you use daily was new technology at one time don't you? Just because you aren't coming up with any doesn't mean the rest of us are sitting on our brains. I think most here think of you as a failure, and you're definitely in that group.

The gurly men at Ford and Mile Levine bring you, trailer fata$$ assist, for those too fat and too lazy to backup their 200 foot bass boats, the mighty Turblow 3.5 gets 1 MPG while towing the 200 foot bass boat that is personally signed by Toby Keith.

The boat in those pics is easy as pie to back up, I can get my 8' wide boat in my 9' wide garage door without a problem. The trailers that suck to reverse are single place jet ski trailers. I have no problem with the boat. I have no problem with my car hauler. My jet ski? A real pain in the rear.

Completely unnecessary technology and I feel sorry for whoever wants/needs this.

It takes, maybe 5 min, to learn how to back a trailer. Any longer and you shouldn't be buying toys that need trailers.

Now that I don't need to hold the wheel, I can enjoy my beer and talk on the phone while the truck backs up the trailer for me!

What's next a wrist watch cell phone???? That will never sell. lol

It's funny how the "real truck guys" call this a gimmick and that they don't need it. Here's a newsflash: not everyone who drives a truck is a "real truck guy"; they're the ones who don't tow on a regular basis and who need this.

@Shawn it's easier to back up a 53' trailer then it is a short one with a shorter wheelbase tow vehicle. I heave a heavy haul truck driver that said he has a harder time backing his bass boat then a stretched heavy haul trailer

Seems like a gimic to me. Only worth a hoot in my opnion if it can handle double trailers.

Time will tell if it is a gimic however if this option is only available on upper trim levels I would venture to say yes. If it is a upper trim package all it is designed to do is boost Frod's profits. Lets make a 50k truck a 52k truck now! Viola


you have to be kidding? People that cannot properly back up a trailer have ZERO BUSINESS TOWING ONE for the safety of EVERYONE around them....... completely Ludacris.

Ford is pulling out all the stops. If this catches on this should stop a lot of fights at the boat ramp.

Does Toyota have an ITBC yet? They should have added that 7 years ago and still are dragging their feet.

Dynamic Hitch Assist
Trailer Backup Assist

Yeah ford owners need all the assist they can get with all ford blue kool-aid they drink

weak. don't tow if you can't back it up. Once you have the skill it is second nature and it only becomes hard if you think about it.

Dang...Let's rely more on technology and not lean how to do things properly for ourselves. humans really are becoming a useless bunch...

Even if you "can" back up a trailer this helps reduce mistakes and saves time. Genius.

Backing with a trailer is really not difficult. Simply put your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. Move the bottom of the wheel in the direction you want the rear of the trailer to go. Make very small adjustments, back slowly so you can see whether more or less adjustment is needed. Most novices move the steering wheel far too much, causing a need to constantly react and reverse the direction. As a fulltime RV'er (towing a heavy fifthwheel) for 11 years, I quickly learned these tricks, thanks to other RV'ers willing to share their experiences.

I am now totally convinced that all Ford owners are nothing but a bunch of sissies with manginas. Come on, man! You need held backing up a trailer? What the hell happened to your man card? Give me a freakin' break!!!

A few guys have made the accurate comment that a short trailer tends to be much harder to back up as it will "jack-knife" more quickly.
Backing up is something that takes practice. Quite a few of my friends are truckers. One buddy used to drive super B-trains. When he went back to regular trailers it took him a little while to readjust.

We have to remember that 1/2 of pickups are sold to people who do not use them for work. That means lifestyle. It is wise for Ford to do things like this since it broadens the appeal for buying a pickup. If Ford makes their products easier to use for non-traditional buyers then that improves sales for Ford.

I agree with the Chevy guys on technology.

Ditch your Chevy's Trailer Sway Control and Chevy StabiliTrak.

Also get rid of your Anti Lock brakes on your Chevys.

Also get rid of your rear camera on your Chevy.

And get rid of lane departure and crash avoidance.

Also Onstar has got to go!

If you can't keep from being locked out of your truck without calling someone at Onstar "you don't deserve to drive."

Get rid of Onstar turn by turn Nav, if you don't know where you're going you don't deserve to drive.

If only we were as smart as those GM and Chevy guys. smh.

We're going to hear more from those "no growth" primitive types. They don't like tech and new stuff because that's not how they did it "20 years ago."

This feature is cool but as more and more electronics are added to cars/trucks the more costly they are when they break. As I like cool tech gadgets I'm also of the mind that more is sometimes less. A friend I work with just had a tailgate stollen off of his Ford F350. Its is a 5k tailgate!!! Apparently there is a camera in the tailgate that makes it so expensive. When I heard this the first thing that came to mind was "How are we at a place time where a tailgate could put the owner out 5 THOUSAND DOLLARS"!!! Give me AC, power windows, and Bluetooth stereo. The rest is nonsense.

People that tow a lot realize the hardest trailers to back are the shortest ones. I have a lot of experience backing. Anything over 20 feet is a piece of cake. But I have a very short service trailer that is very difficult to back into the back of my long narrow shed. I would like to see how this works with a small/short trailer.

I really don't have an issue with the new backup assist. I'm sure it will help some drivers that are not well versed in towing trailers. My hope is that this is an option and NOT required for the trailer towing package. I don't mind new features, I just want to be able to exclude features that I don't need.
I don't need or want backup assist, parking assist, crash avoidance, or lane departure buzzers, or notifications.

It IS optional and will cost around $200. It is NOT included with any of the towing pkgs but available as an option.

Even if you think you're well versed in towing and backing up trailers this technology requires less maneuvering.

my wife backs up our 20ft bassboat with no issues, I do, have a wireless backup camera mounted to the back of my 38' camper to see whats behind me when backing up. even though I can do it without the camera no problem it is much nicer, but then again, I like technology, so I think this is a great addition. the reason people who complain about it here is, they don't like Ford to begin with, and they hate to see another reason for Ford to continue to be the best 1/2 ton on the market, since other truck makers are always behind Ford in the tech department, they have good reason to complain, maybe the twins will have this in 2020? then I bet it will be great for the twin fans

I taught my wife how to back our boat trailer down the ramp last year. Took her 10 minutes to learn and another 4-5 boating outings to get pretty good at it. I showed this to her and her response was simple....seems like a waste of money. It's not that hard to learn and it's a skill worth acquiring. What happens if this "tech" is acting up one day with the boat all loaded up and your family in the truck and you never really learned the skill without this crutch? Guess the only thing to do is turn to your wife and kids and tell them the car is broken so we'll just have to go home.

It's a good option.

I don't know if I would actually like this. I've spent decades reversing trailers.

I do believe this will cause more people to less spatially aware of backing situations.

My logic for this is people will be concentrating more on the trailer than what the vehicle is doing.

Also, this wouldn't of been possible without electric steering. It isn't that great a feat.

It is innovative, but on the same scale of innovation as a HID or LED driving light.

The back up assist looks acceptable, but are they worth the cost if you know how to drive?

This isn't a deal breaker when considering a purchase of a pickup. Especially the costs involved.

If you can not back your trailer up in any area safely, you have no business doing so!

"If you can not back your trailer up in any area safely, you have no business doing so!"

Right, on Sandman.

And if you can't get into a truck bed without a corner bumper manstep and a bedrail grap handle, you have no business doing so!

If you go down a hill in your Z71 package with hill descent control, you have no business doing down hills!

If you have auto up windows, you have no business having windows! Crank windows only!

If you can't brake your trailer without an ITBC on the new 2014 Silvrado, you have no business doing so!

If you can't buy a truck with Onstar, you have no business doing so!

If you buy a truck like a Silverado that comes standard with StabiliTrak, trailer-sway control, hill start assist, and rollover protection, you have no business doing so!

People are missing the point or just like taking shots at Ford. It's not that people cannot back up a trailer. It's that this way may be easier.

I can also climb into a truck bed but the manstep is better.

I can roll up windows but power is better. I could drive a manual but auto is better.

I could crank start my vehicle like in the olden days but auto is better.

I could drive with no AC but AC is better.

I could go back to 3 speeds but 10 speed is better.

I could back up my truck without rear sensing but rear sensing is better.

I could park my truck and go outside to go into 4x4 but shift on the fly is better.

I could drive a truck with AM/cassette but satellite radio is better.

I could start my truck with the key but someone like remote start.

I could use a paper map and ask for directions for every place I go, but using gps is better.

I could drive in 2wd and just wait for snow to melt, but 4x4 is better.

And so on.

@Gregory S,
I do believe a few are shots at Ford, but remember this is PUTC.

I also believe this has a certain gimmicky quality about it. I also believe this might also increase the risk of an incident.

Backing a trailer from a safety perspective has two vehicle on two different trajectories.

I do believe this device will encourage people more focused on the trailer and less on the tow vehicle.

I have witnessed people attempting to back up a trailer inadvertently damage the tow vehicle by concentrating too much on the trailer.

I suppose back up cameras and detectors on all vehicles/trailers will become mandatory as a next step to prevent people from having incidents.

This is scary these 1/2 ton trucks already tow way more than they should and now you don't even have know how to control it. learn how to back up a trailer or don't use one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This just in! 2016 F150 will come with Man Purses Assist to help the girly men in and out of their 2016 F150 LMAO! Also a turd turbo was installed to blow up their man dresses on hot summer days, after long shopping mall trips! Rush in today and get the new 2016 F150 cause us Ford market guys are running out of ideas on how to make this aluminum truck sell!

Can't wait for those features to arrive ^.

Its ok people! All those expensive radar sensors in the front bumper will surely warn you before you scrape the nose on a nearby obstacle or sideswipe someone walking near your truck because you were too busy staring at the center stack and fV*king with your knob instead of looking out the windows and maintaining awareness of what was going on outside.

Ford knows what kind of people buy there trucks. That's why they make these options for them. If your to dumb to realize fords are way over priced. Then your obviously to dumb to backup a trailer.

Ford making life simple for simple minded people. LOL

Look who's talking.The person is who is too dumb to know the difference between you're and your, there and their, and too and to.

The comments to this entry are closed.