Ford Unveils Pro Trailer Backup Assist for 2016 F-150

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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.

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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. 

Cars.com photos by Aaron Bragman; manufacturer images

 

 

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Comments

wow this article brought out a lot of the juvenile commenters. Just a matter of time before chevy ram toyota and nissan copy more of the features on ford trucks. Most of the options I won't choose, but it sure is nice to have the option for those that want it. I remember when I first heard about the man step and thought it was a dumb Idea. Now that I have one on my truck it's great simply because it allows my old dog to get into the truck without me lifting him in. Chevy made fun of the heated steering wheels in their own commercials. Now I think it's an option on their own truck. Some people will find the backup assist really useful and ford will sell more trucks because of it. I just don't understand why people complain about having more options. It's not like you can't buy the truck without it.

@johnny doe
Damn funny and true. Just another example of the pussification of America.

@johnny doe
Damn funny and true. Just another example of the pussification of America.

Ford is becoming the official company of the people who are to stupid to backup anything. At least they got it right and circled the problem. I sure hope anyone who buys a Ford learns to circle their own name as the idiot who bought one!!!!

As dozens of others have pointed out; just another marketing gimmick by Ford to Fool the Masses.

You should not have a driver’s license if you do not know how to drive.

With all the failure rates on the Ford EPAS, can’t wait to see the first boat sitting on top of the dock.

I normally don't go for this kind of "gingerbread". Usually it just serves to raise the price of the vehicle. When I tow something its rare (maybe 2 or 3 times a year). Its also usually small (stuff I rent or move the lawn mower around on a utility trailer). To be honest im not very good at backing up a trailer I don't practice enough because I don't do it very much. Part of me screams "THAT IS SO FING COOL I MUST HAVE IT NOW!!!" The other part grumbles "just learn to do it right, or we don't do it enough to justify the crazy money it must cost". Somewhere in between is probably where the real truth is. Its an idea that like the integrated trailer brake is WAY overdue.

I normally don't go for this kind of "gingerbread". Usually it just serves to raise the price of the vehicle. When I tow something its rare (maybe 2 or 3 times a year). Its also usually small (stuff I rent or move the lawn mower around on a utility trailer). To be honest im not very good at backing up a trailer I don't practice enough because I don't do it very much. Part of me screams "THAT IS SO FING COOL I MUST HAVE IT NOW!!!" The other part grumbles "just learn to do it right, or we don't do it enough to justify the crazy money it must cost". Somewhere in between is probably where the real truth is. Its an idea that like the integrated trailer brake is WAY overdue.

Lol all the childish hating comments "oh ford needs this because ford owners don't know how to back up a trailer" face it, it's a nifty little feature that just makes it easier grow up children

The problem that I see, is now that the truck can back it self, more people who have not learned how to control their "rig" will now be another danger on the roads. A big part of learning to tow a load is backing it down. No one will need to learn anything about towing any more.

Totally missing the point. it's not that some people cannot back up. This just makes it easier and faster.

Ford is going to be licensing the use of alot of there patents on the f150 to the other manufactures. The number of patents they are developing is just amazing. It is pretty sweet to hop in the truck hooked to the trailer and it tell you which lights are burnt out and not functioning and then if this backing feature does save time and make it easier to back kudos to ford.


If it turns into a gimmick then you prolly won't see it offered very long..... Like quad steer gm's that were out for about a year back sometime ago. Remember that was advertised as a trailer backing feature.... They were backing the trailer in the corrals in that commercial

@Scott,
I don't know how Ford is going to patent a knob, a potentiometer???? That's really high tech stuff!!

Maybe Ford can redesign a wheelnut and have it patented!

I mean really this tech has been around since the advent of basic and simple electrics in the 19th Century.

You are correct al you can't patent the knob. But the process and how it is accomplished is.... That is why there are 5 patents already issued as well as 10 pending. So unless you know more then the U.S. Patent office you are incorrect in your assumption that ford tech used to accomplish this can't be patented.....

It's in the last sentence of the article BAFO

@Scott,
Any high school kid with basic electronic knowledge could of developed this.

It is so far from rocket science that maybe Ford can put a patent on light bulbs along with wheelnuts and a spare tyre.

It's the use of age old technology.

Also, what about insurance implications with this device??

BAFO with your simple mind you think as simple as turning an knob on the dash.... Basic electronic knowledge isn't going to cut it sorry.... Alot of computers talk and are programmed to make this work But continue looking a fool thinking this is similar to a lug nut. Steering the trailer versus steering the truck. It is really unlikely with your very basic electronic knowledge you could take a ram and develop this feature.... My guess is you will steer the truck via the steering wheel instead of steering the trailer via electronic and computer controls.... Prolly along the way grumbling that you are a "man" and can steer your own damn truck.

The only thing I would change is over a camera option available to add to a trailer from the factory and put the trailer steering control on the door panel near the power window switches Instead of the dash.

Ford is easily the trailer towing leader and trailer towing feature champ across there lineup.

https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/fna/us/en/news/2015/05/21/all-new-pro-trailer-backup-assist-for-2016-ford-f-150-makes-back.html
"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."

Oh ya BAFO... In the US Your personal vehicle insurance for your vehicle isn't affected by what you tow..... As well as the insurance that you put on the trailer for private and personal use isn't affected by what it is towed with.

Not sure why you would think of insurance effects cause of this????

@Dever/Paul/Tom Lemon/Greg Baird/TRX4Tom/Dave/Hemi V8/Tom Terrific/sandman 4x4/lautenslager/zveria/Bob/US Truck Driver/Glenn/Jason/Hemi Rampage/smartest truck guy/Maxx/SuperDuty37/Ken/Ron/johnny doe/jim/ALL/Frank/Idahoe Joe/The Guy/AD/Casey/papa jim/Young Guy/BeeBe/Steve/Chris/The truck guy/Alex/Mr Chow/Yessir/All Americans/Scott/Buy American or say Bye to America/Ram Big Horn 1500/Hemi Monster/Tom Wilkinson at Chevy/mark49/Tom#3/Truck Crazy or whoever you want to call yourself.

Quit the crap, really.

It's getting long in the tooth.

You want to debate, but it has to be on your terms.

Learn to debate with good information, then we might be able to have a decent debate.

Opinions are good, but if they are only your view to support the UAW, then how good are they. Look at what you guys have done to Detroit.

Terror tactics (union tactics) don't work on me.

If PUTC wants the UAW or whatever to control this site I suppose it's their decision.

It's not kids like I've been told by PUTC.

@tj that's a iPhone thing.

@Scott or Cummin or aul1, etc.
Putting your ridiculously insular Ford orientated and heavily biased mind aside.

This is a simple device.

It is really a gimmick.

Why would anyone want to pay additional money for a gimmick.

There already is a big knob to turn to guide a trailer when reversing, it called a steering wheel.

After reading this article and some of the comments I do think Ford already had a knob guiding trailer when reversing.

Now Ford need three, the steering wheel, this gimmick and the other knob.

Al you couldnt design it. You never pull trailers so you wouldn't understand.

Also why would this trailer feature affect insurance again?

@Scott,
You are almost correct. But I wouldn't waste my time on a gimmick like this. I'll leave gimmicks to McDonalds and Ford.

Here's how it works;

1. It uses the existing system in place for the steering.

2. All is needed is to reverse the polarity of the "knob's" (not a Ford driver) output.

3. This will "trick" (using language you can comprehend) the steering servo that moves the steering into moving in the opposite direction as the steering wheel would operate.

4. Put in a simple isolation circuit for when the vehicle is in anything but reverse.

And Ford is charging hundreds of dollars for this!!!!

What a rip off.

When you leave school don't become involved with anything mechanical.

Also, just reading websites and magazines will not make you an expert.

Go outside, strip your bike and rebuild it. That's a good start.

@Scott,
You are almost correct. But I wouldn't waste my time on a gimmick like this. I'll leave gimmicks to McDonalds and Ford.

Here's how it works;

1. It uses the existing system in place for the steering.

2. All is needed is to reverse the polarity of the "knob's" (not a Ford driver) output.

3. This will "trick" (using language you can comprehend) the steering servo that moves the steering into moving in the opposite direction as the steering wheel would operate.

4. Put in a simple isolation circuit for when the vehicle is in anything but reverse.

And Ford is charging hundreds of dollars for this!!!!

What a rip off.

When you leave school don't become involved with anything mechanical.

Also, just reading websites and magazines will not make you an expert.

Go outside, strip your bike and rebuild it. That's a good start.

Al it's not linear from the knob to the steering wheel though. Like a certain degree rotation on the knob doesn't equate to a certain degree rotation of the steering wheel. Also this system controls the speed of the reversing which plays into the system

@Scott, Hello.

Cummin, Scott and aul1 seem to be one.

Just sit back like what has been going on and it will continue until they they are caught out.

There is also more going on than meets the eye.

All of Big Al's posts on pickuptrucks.com have been from a nuetral point of view. Many of his posts relate trucks on the market here in Australia with trucks sold in the U.S.; and this is often misconstrued as cultural bias or Anti-Americanism. A little more respect is all I ask for.

@Scott,
"Al it's not linear from the knob to the steering wheel though. Like a certain degree rotation on the knob doesn't equate to a certain degree rotation of the steering wheel. Also this system controls the speed of the reversing which plays into the system"

Are you for real with this comment?????

Boy, stick to reading websites thinking you are an expert.

Well VW came out with this a year ago for it's Caravans. It is being fitted to the Amarok.
My feeling if you cannot park, you shout not be towing
http://www.caravancampingsales.com.au/content/news/2014/world-first-trailer-assist-coming-47174

Al... You turn that trailer knob on a shorter trailer versus long trailer if it's the same program you aren't going to back anything.... You think ford is having you enter the data on the trailer into the truck computer for your health or something???? Longer and shorter trailers react different to inputs.

Also what are the insurance liabilities of this system that you spoke of earlier????

I worked with a contractor who said he jackknifed his trailer about once a year. He said he forgets it is attached.
Memory pills would save a lot of $$.

@Tom3 , "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."

They are not half tons anymore, do your research.

Ford thinks it's come up with a solution,, great, this good information.
auto Price release

You guys are right!! Throw out your calculators and go back to long hand math. After that throw out the flash lights in your cab and light a candle. Finally, no reason for that oven, start a fire, or eat that venison raw!! Some of you guys are fricking hilarious!!

Everybody likes features- everybody! If you don't want the feature then don't get it. What we have going on here is that some peoples trucks that they drive do not offer all these nice features. Stop hating

I personally don't agree with some of these features and nanny warnings, but that is because I am quite independent and can still function even if my cell phone service goes down. I have friends that become literally parlayed.

My real question is thought, who is liable ? especially when you are supposedly in control of the vehicle but driving hands off when the vehicle is in motion ? Betcha Ford ain't gonna indemnify you ! Sure there are sensors but what if a kid does happen to get run over or you plow into something? If you are not in control and actually driving the truck your reaction to actually stop it will be slowed way down. Drivers do need the basic skills otherwise they become very dumb as can be seen on a daily basis.

All I can say is watch you family more carefully at campsites and boat ramps, because you never know if the "now passenger" has actually programmed the trailer assist properly, or selected the right trailer configuration. "Opps, sorry man, the switch is set for my travel trailer not my boat, whattthappppen .

It isn't an end all, even though you have the sensors, camera etc. and supposedly programmed it right, I can't see how the system will "see" behind a trailer ( especially up to 33 ft) for things like people, posts, large rocks etc. All I can hope is that people will know to check behind their trailer and the route they plan to back up before taking their hands off the wheel and pedals. It would be a tragic to kill someone expecting the "system" knows and sees all. Some people are smart enough to use this as aid, some are unfortunately dumb enough to rely on it.

Technology can be good and fun. But honesty ask yourself this, would be totally comfortable sitting in a driver-less car and let it take you around ? How about closing your eyes during the same trip? Better hope the "blue screen of death doesn't suddenly pop up".

Careful what you consider to be a safe feature.

but hey who will be the first to try Russian roulette with a "smart" revolver that promises the cylinder will always skip past the bullet. Definitely someone out there.

Who will be the first to back the truck and trailer all that way into the lake expecting the system will know when to stop without the driver intervening. Save me a seat so I can LMAO

You know it is going to happen, it is a given. Ford will be the first one they will blame for their stupidity.

Curious what will happen if a bird craps on the checkered sticker and blocks out some of the black blocks. "Damn bird crashed my trailer"

I want to buy this pro backup trailer assist system for my 2017 f150



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