For a lot of drivers, it’s hard to imagine life before cameras on cars and trucks. Rear-, side, and forward cameras have made parallel parking a joy (in some cases, cameras combines with sensors can parallel park your car for you).
And on many vehicles, the combination of cameras, software, and a central infotainment screen enables a very cool “birdseye” view that can assist is manoeuvring in tight spaces.
There was one important area in which new camera tech wasn’t being optimised, however, and that was with towing.
Ford had changed that with a new suite of technologies aimed at owners of its F-Series Super Duty pickups, which are often used to tow really big trailers.
Ford is calling it “Trailer Reverse Guidance.”
According to the automaker, it’s a “technology that uses cameras to see more angles, monitor conditions surrounding the truck and provide real-time coaching guidance while manoeuvring a trailer.”
It wasn’t an easy advancement to offer Super Duty customers — the people who tow things like big horse trailers, catering rigs, race cars, and heavy equipment to job sites. In other words, pickup owners who use their trucks to do some serious work and have always had to be pretty good at backing up.
“At first we thought we might have to have two camera designs,” said Jennifer Shaw, the lead engineer on the project.
That ultimately wasn’t necessary, but Ford does have two patents pending on the technology, a system that involves seven cameras in total and special digital steering wheel display that can provide a driver with coaching when backing up.
While this might not be an exotic new engine design, being able to handle large tow jobs is critical to Ford pickup buyers. The Ford F-150 full-size pickup has long been America’s bestselling vehicle, while the Super Duty trucks are popular among people who need a pickup that can step up to handle challenges that exceed the F-Series capabilities.
“We always try to push the envelope,” Shaw said. “At Ford, that’s something we consider really important.”
For the most part, Super Duty towers are pretty confident in their abilities, but obviously every little bit of assistance helps.
Shaw noted, however, that a real selling point for the Reverse Guidance tech is that it enables the family members of Super Duty owners to be more confident about handling the big pickup and its trailer.
“Our owners have told us that a spouse or driving-age child would refuse to back the trailer up,” she said.
But with the new cameras and software, “people who aren’t experienced can do it,” she added.
Cameras in cars have been one of the biggest developments in the past two decades. They keep getting better, and automaker continue to find new ways to use them to improve the ownership experience. Sure, they add cost. But once most car and truck buyers get used to them, they don’t want to look, well … back!
You can watch the technology in action in this video that Ford produced: