Could this be Ford’s answer to GM’s Super Cruise?
At the front of this convoy, you can see a mildly camouflaged 2021 Ford F-150. There’s nothing too remarkable about that in itself, but consider the vehicles that are tagging along in this testing run. An Argo AI prototype, based on the Ford Escape, is a platform for the company to develop its self-driving technology. In the back, there’s a last-gen F-150, though more spy photos reveal it too carries sensors that seem to be part of future autonomous tech for Ford’s best-selling truck. With GM’s recent announcement including Super Cruise self-driving tech on the GMC Sierra, perhaps it’s no coincidence we’re seeing Ford’s test vehicles out in the wild now.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen alleged “autonomous” F-150s, either. This time around, though, the photos suggest Ford’s deep into some serious testing.
What’s going on here?
Now that the next-generation Ford F-150 has arrived in production form, this truck sports relatively little camouflage. Focus on the white cover over the grille, though, and you do see some clues into Ford’s possible intentions. A bundle of data cables run underneath the front valence, up through the grille and, presumably, to the front badge. Beyond what’s available here and now, it seems engineers are working to develop a more advanced sensor to give a future self-driving Ford F-150 that capability.
More cables run up the passenger side of the truck to the roof, where there appears to be more equipment that could tie into a Super Cruise-like system. More cameras and sensors placed throughout the truck would bolster its capacity to work out its position on the road at all times, reducing the need for driver intervention.
The truck pulling a small trailer is another clue a self-driving Ford F-150 could be in the works. Trucks like the GMC Hummer EV and Sierra will offer hands-free towing, and the extra wires heading into the cab from the roof suggest the Blue Oval’s aiming for similar capability here.
Down the sides, black camouflage along the sills could (possibly) be hiding more sensors. If that is the case, more equipment there could feed in data about the truck’s immediate surroundings, as well as the trailer’s vicinity to other objects on the road. That way, the truck could make finer adjustments where necessary.
Can a self-driving Ford F-150 take the stress out of tight maneuvers?
At this time, Ford already has the Pro Trailer Backup Assist system to take some stress of towing. However, some spy shots seem to show the new F-150 maneuvering with another dual-axle trailer in a parking lot. It’s difficult to provide context for the images above, but engineers could be dialing in the truck’s ability to maneuver itself and a trailer in tight spaces. Our spy photographers mentioned a “spate” of sensor-equipped F-150s driving around Dearborn. Real-world data could flesh out a system that works in most real-world conditions, while Super Cruise mainly works on limited-access highways.
Still, depending on what Ford is developing here, we could well have two major truck makers with self-driving (or at least better semi-autonomous) systems in the next couple years.
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