NEW YORK – Ford Motor Company has found another very helpful use for two of the hardware components of its F-Series advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) by using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to create its new Pro Trailer Hitch Assist which automates the tricky, frustrating task of hooking up a trailer to a truck.
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.
The company this week traveled to the New York International Automobile Show where Jennifer Shaw, Ford’s director of ADAS software and feature development, demonstrated Pro Trailer Hitch Assist to The BRAKE Report.
“How can we take artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide our customers with something they need and want,” Shaw postulated when describing motivation behind the development of Pro Trailer Assist.
The system helps take the frustration out of hitching up. It works by using the rear camera and corner radars (within the taillights) 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.
Pro Trailer Hitch Assist is now available for F-150, F-150 Lightning and the all-new F-Series Super Duty. It is part of packages containing the Pro Trailer Backup Assist systems and Ford’s Trailer Technology packages.
According to Shaw, there is no reason it cannot be adopted to other vehicles which tow and have the proper ADAS hardware.
And even the most inexperienced driver can do it without having his or her hands on the steering wheel or feet on any of the pedals.
To operate Pro Trailer Hitch Assist, the customer pushes and holds a button while monitoring progress visible on the truck’s large center screen display.
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 collected a large volume of data to develop Pro Trailer Hitch Assist’s machine learning algorithms to detect a broad variety of trailers of varied sizes and types on different terrain and in various weather conditions.
The system’s ultrasonic reverse parking aid system alerts the driver in case an obstacle is detected during the maneuver.
And future trailer image data can be used to make the system better over time through Ford Power-Up software updates.
The Pro-Trailer Hitch Assist technology was developed in-house, by Ford’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems team. Over development, Ford received 60 patents.