Ford’s new 2017 Super Duty (the big F-250 and F-350 pickups) includes something called Trailer Reverse Guidance, an interesting new software and hardware setup that uses a whole bunch of cameras and some clever software to make backing a trailer a lot easier.
Ninety percent of Super Duty pickup truck owners tow a trailer at least once a month. Only 30 percent of owners of Ford's smaller F-150 truck tow that often. So when Ford was building the new 2017 Super Duty, it looked at what features might be useful to the type of customer who buys it. The 2016 F-150, introduced late last year, introduced a feature called Pro Trailer Backup Assist that uses electric power steering to make backing up a trailer as easy as turning a knob.
The Super Duty doesn't have electric power steering, it uses a more traditional hydraulic setup. That means the truck can't steer itself like the F-150 can. But it is available with seven different cameras that can make backing up a trailer a lot easier. Ford knew that owners of the bigger truck are probably much more experienced at towing, and might bristle at the insinuation that they need help backing a trailer... except sometimes they could probably use the help. That's why we have Trailer Reverse Guidance — think of it as a spotter that gives more information about what's going on behind your hitch, rather than actually doing the work for you.
There's a camera on the top of the tailgate that looks down at the standard hitch to determine the angle of the trailer. There's another camera on top of the truck, near the high-mounted center stop light. That one looks into the bed to see the angle of fifth-wheel or gooseneck trailers.
Then there's the pair of wide-angle cameras in the side mirrors. Those look back along the side of the truck, analyzing the position of the trailer and displaying a top-down view of the angle of the trailer. It's meant to provide a bit of additional vision to the driver.
"It's not overbearing and it's not taking over," says Jennifer Shaw, driver assistance supervisor for Ford. But it delivers "extended vision" and can provide a warning to the driver if they're at risk of jackknifing. It could also be useful for drivers new to towing.
There's another mode that makes suggestions on steering angle to help the driver back up in a straight line, one of the trickiest things to do with a trailer. An optional remote camera, designed to be mounted on the back of the trailer, lets drivers see what's behind the huge thing that's behind them.
The idea is to use technology to make life easier, even for truck owners who might prefer to do things the old-fashioned way. The system will be available as an option to 2017 Super Duty buyers as part of the Ultimate Trailer Tow package. It goes on sale late this year.