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Ford adds new AI software trailer hitching feature, works with existing ADAS hardware

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Ford has added software to existing backup cameras and rear radars on its F-Series trucks that use artificial intelligence (AI) to hitch a trailer to a truck with the push of a button.

The feature adds to the list of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that today’s modern vehicles are equipped with from automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitoring to lane keep assist and lane departure warning making it all the more important for repairers to properly calibrate every vehicle post-repair. Pre- and post-scans should also be conducted to know what features and systems are on each vehicle and whether they’re working properly or not.

Pro Trailer Hitch Assist 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, according to Ford.  The radars also help operate blind spot monitoring. The feature is available for 2023 F-150 and F-150 Lightning and will soon be available for the new 2023 F-Series Super Duty. During operation, the user holds a button down and monitors the process on the truck’s center 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.

Computer vision is used to detect the hitch ball and trailer. After the driver verifies the coupler is positioned higher than the hitch ball, the truck’s control algorithms steer the truck, lining it up so the hitch ball can be positioned directly under the trailer’s coupler. The system’s ultrasonic reverse parking aid system alerts the driver in case an obstacle is detected during the maneuver.

Ford says it collected a large volume of data to develop Pro Trailer Hitch Assist’s machine learning algorithms to detect a broad variety of trailer sizes and types on different terrain and in various weather conditions. Future trailer image data can be used to make the system better over time through Ford Power-Up software updates, Ford said.

The Pro-Trailer Hitch Assist technology was developed in-house by Ford’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems team. Throughout development, Ford received 60 patents for the product.

Pro Trailer Hitch Assist adds to a suite of driver-assist technologies already available for F-Series including Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which makes backing up a trailer “as easy as turning a knob to indicate which direction the trailer should go while reversing into position.”

F-150 customers can also gauge how much they are hauling with available Onboard Scales that measure and display the approximate weight of the payload in the truck. Load information is displayed on the center touch screen with a graphic representation of the truck, or in graphics within the smart taillamps on select models.

Smart taillamps operate like the battery charge indicator on a mobile phone, displaying the percentage of payload capacity by illuminating LEDs arranged in a built-in vertical bar. All four lights illuminate when 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. The truck can be set on scale mode, which zeroes out the current load and allows for approximate weighing of additional items loaded into the bed.

Class-exclusive Smart Hitch is designed to help customers easily load trailers and practice safe towing. Smart Hitch measures the tongue weight of a trailer as it’s connected to assist in distributing trailer weight correctly.

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


All images and videos provided by Ford Motor Co. 

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