Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist is Awesome!

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Pro Trailer Backup Assist San Francisco

When I posted the news that Ford would be offering Pro Trailer Backup Assist on the 2016 F-150, many of you made comments about how the system was unnecessary. Some suggested that if you don’t know how to back up a trailer, you have no business hauling a trailer. I recently had a chance to check out the system in action, and I have to say you are wrong about the system. It’s awesome.

Ford invited me to their Further With Ford annual technology symposium and they set up an obstacle course in a parking lot next to San Francisco Bay. They had three pre-production 2016 F-150s attached to trailers that we could sample.

If you’re unfamiliar with Pro Trailer Backup Assist, the system uses the sensors on the F-150, plus some complicated computer software, to control the steering input of the truck so you can intuitively back up a trailer. When the system is engaged, all you have to do is turn a knob to the left or right to indicate which way you want the trailer to go. Unlike actually steering the truck, you turn the knob in the direction you want the trailer to go.

Pro Trailer 2016 F-150

The system can store ten different trailers, and you recall which one you’re hooked up to when you engage the system. To setup the system initially, you attach a black and white sticker to the trailer and take a few length and width measurements. Enter those numbers into the system and you’re all set.

Pro Trailer 2016 F-150 1

Backing a trailer up in a straight line is the easiest of trailer maneuvers, but not necessarily as easy as backing a truck up without a trailer. With the system engaged, and no hands on the steering wheel (or the control knob), the truck makes slight corrections to the steering wheel as the truck goes in reverse. It keeps the trailer perfectly straight and allows you to accurately hit your mark.

Moving on to a reverse J-Turn, the system really shines. The control knob isn’t just an on and off type of knob. You can a nearly infinite amount of finite control over how sharply you want to turn the trailer. When combined with the trailer towing mirrors, you really do look like a professional the very first time you try it.

Yes, you have to use your mirrors. The rearview camera helps, but you still have to know what’s going on around you. The system doesn’t take the driver out of the equation, it just allows the driver to focus on what’s really important, and not the steering wheel.

2016 F-150 Special Edition Appearance Package - 2015-06-23 10.53.03

A majority of drivers think they’re above average drivers, which as you know is impossible. For those of you that are experts with trailers, good for you. It’s a good skill to have. But if you aren’t great with a trailer this system really takes a load off your mind and allows you to focus on getting the trailer where it needs to be.

If it’s not for you, that’s fine. But the truth of the matter is this technology opens trailer hauling to people who would not have considered it before, and that could mean increased sales of trailers, jet skis, ATVs, and more. Sounds like a win in my book!

Feel free to tell me how wrong I am over in the forums!

Chad Kirchner is a regular contributor to Corvette Forum and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among other auto sites.

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