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Ford is using AI to make hitching a trailer even easier

2023 New York International Auto Show

There is a very good chance you’ve have heard the term “AI” a few times in the last few months. The technology is being used to create realistic images and artwork from thin air, while some major publications even use it to generate wildly inaccurate written content. Now, Ford is using artificial intelligence, including computer vision and machine learning, to make it easier than ever to hitch a trailer. This industry-first technology automatically controls the truck’s speed, steering, and braking to ensure the trailer hitch ball is directly underneath the trailer coupler.

With Pro Trailer Hitch Assist, Ford aims to make hitching a truck and trailer as easy as pushing a button. By using the vehicle’s rear camera and corner radars, the technology is able to align the hitch with the trailer coupler. To use it, customers simply push and hold a button while monitoring the progress on the center screen display. Advanced machine learning technology takes over the process, detecting the hitch ball, trailer, and coupler at distances up to about 20 feet.

The system will find the best path to back the truck up to the trailer, using computer vision to precisely detect both the hitch ball and trailer. Once it confirms the coupler is positioned higher than the hitch ball, the truck will steer itself so that the hitch ball is positioned directly underneath the trailer’s coupler.

In order to develop Pro Trailer Hitch Assist’s machine learning algorithms, Ford collected a large volume of data so the machine learning algorithm can detect a wide variety of different trailers with varying sizes and types. It even considers different terrain and weather conditions. If an obstacle is detected while trying to hitch the trailer, the system’s ultrasonic reverse parking aid system will alert the driver.

Developed in-house by Ford’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems team, the automaker received 60 patents through the course of development. Like other forms of AI tech finding its way into our daily lives, Ford is going to constantly be updating its algorithms with future trailer image data. The goal, of course, is to make the system better over time through Ford Power-Up software updates.

“Pro Trailer Hitch Assist is another smart solution to save time for our customers,” said John Emmert, Ford Truck general manager. “Instead of struggling to hitch a trailer alone or with a spotter, customers can now get hitched more confidently and on their way to the lake or a jobsite.”

Written by Jason Siu

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