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(VIDEO) Trailer hitching tribulations tackled by new AI-assisted technology from Ford

Pro Trailer Hitch Assist uses artificial intelligence to help drivers attach truck to trailer easier.
Pro Trailer Hitch Assist uses artificial intelligence to help drivers attach truck to trailer easier. Ford

Ford has developed technology that takes advantage of artificial intelligence to help make hitching a truck and trailer as easy as pushing a button.

Pairing a truck and trailer can be tricky and often embarrassing if others are watching and waiting. Whether alone or with a spotter, lining up to hitch a trailer can be a tension-filled ordeal, trying to perfectly position the truck's hitch ball under the trailer hitch coupler, so the truck and trailer can be physically joined. 

Ford's Pro Trailer Hitch Assist helps take the frustration out of hitching up. It works by using the rear camera and corner radars to align the hitch with the trailer coupler while simultaneously controlling the truck's speed, steering, and braking to stop at just the right place. 

To operate the system, the user pushes and holds a button, while monitoring progress visible on the truck's large centre screen display. Pro Trailer Hitch Assist uses advanced machine learning technology to detect the hitch ball, trailer, and coupler at distances of up to approximately 20 feet. As the truck moves towards the trailer, the system determines the best path to follow, and computer vision precisely detects both the ball and trailer.

Watch: How to use Pro Trailer Hitch Assist

Once the driver confirms the coupler is positioned higher than the hitch ball, the truck's control algorithms steer the truck into line so the hitch ball can be directly positioned under the trailer's coupler. The result is less time required to back up to a trailer with improved confidence. It even helps towing experts by reducing time lost to maneuvering mistakes.

Ford developed the algorithms using a large volume of data that allow the system to detect a broad variety of trailers of various sizes and types on different terrain and in various weather conditions. An ultrasonic reverse parking aid alerts the driver in case an obstacle is detected during the maneuver. Future trailer image data can be used to improve the system over time through Ford Power-Up software updates.

Onboard scales add hauling assurance for drivers

Pro Trailer Hitch Assist is one of several driver-assist technologies Ford has made available for the F-Series pickups.

Onboard scales are available that measure and display the approximate weight of the payload in the truck. Load information is displayed in the centre touch screen with a graphic representation of the truck, or in graphics within the smart taillamps on select models.

The smart taillamps operate similar to a battery charge indicator on a mobile phone - they show the percentage of payload capacity by illuminating LEDs arranged in a built-in vertical bar. As the truck is loaded, all four lights illuminate, showing the truck is fully loaded. If the truck is overloaded, the top lights blink. The maximum payload based on the pickup's configuration is programmed into the system. Additionally, the truck can be set on scale mode, which zeroes out the current load and allows for approximate weighing of additional items loaded onto the bed.

Watch: Onboard scales and Smart Hitch

Ford also offers a Smart Hitch, which helps customers easily load trailers and better practice safe towing. Smart Hitch measures tongue weight of the trailer being connected, aiding the customer in distributing trailer weight correctly.

Once the trailer is set up in the centre touch screen, Smart Hitch calculates the tongue weight and provides guidance on weight distribution or hitch overloading on the screen or within the smart taillamps. The truck will also indicate if the hitch weight is too high or low and can even guide owners through properly tensioning a weight redistributing hitch.

Pro Trailer Backup Assist makes backing a trailer up as easily as turning a knob to indicate the direction the trailer should go while reversing into position.

Pro Trailer Hitch Assist is now available for F-150, F-150 Lightning and the all-new F-Series Super Duty. 

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