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2021 Ford F-150 Full Of New Technology Including Co-Pilot Mode and Trailer Guidance

Newest F-150 full of technology, but do consumers really want some of these features? 14th-generation F-150 takes the pickup truck as far technologically as it’s ever been.

I’m a guy who loves automotive technology. I want as much of the latest and greatest technology as possible. And yes, I hear the complaints from the old schoolers who cynically pronounce, that’s just more that can go wrong on a vehicle.

I hear you loud and clear and don’t refute that, in theory. I still want the technology, or at least most of it. When it comes to pickup trucks, especially America’s number-one-selling truck, the Ford F-150, I wonder if Ford needs to drop all this technology into it. Do consumers really want some of this new technology featured in the 2021 Ford F-150? I went into some detail on some of the new tech found in the 2021 F-150 in this article, but I want to explore it further.

I will ask for your feedback at the end of this article. For now, let’s take a look at some of the new technology I’m talking about.

Active Driver Assist interface Mustang Mach-EFord Co-Pilot 360 in the 2021 Ford F-150
This sounds like it’s autonomous driving, and that’s not really true. Ford has had a version of Co-Pilot around since 2017, but they’ve advanced the technology. As I reported on earlier this year, the 2.0 version of Ford’s Co-Pilot 360 will debut in the Mustang Mach-E, pictured above.

But Ford announced this same version will be included in the 2021 Ford F-150. Part of the Co-Pilot 360 program includes Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Detection and Active Drive Assist.

Active Drive Assist allows for hands-free driving. The 2021 Ford F-150 is the only pickup to offer such a feature.

“The stress of long highway drives remains a huge issue for drivers around the world,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product development and purchasing officer. “By introducing driver-assist technologies like Active Drive Assist, Ford’s version of hands-free driving, we’re allowing our customers to feel more confident whenever they’re behind the wheel.”

Active Drive Assist pushes the envelope of technology. It may take some demonstration of the technology to win over some F-150 consumers.

It features advanced driver-facing camera tracks head position and driver eye gaze to enable hands-free driving when available. It allows owners on certain sections of pre-mapped, divided highways to drive with their hands off the steering wheel – if they continue to pay attention to the road ahead – granting them an additional level of comfort during long drives. The Active Drive Assist prep kit contains the hardware required for this feature, while the software to enable functionality, expected in the third quarter of the 2021 calendar year, will be delivered by over-the-air update or dealer visit. Separate payment will be required to activate full functionality at that time.

Other new available features include Intersection Assist, which detects oncoming traffic while the driver is attempting a left turn. If there is risk of a collision with an oncoming vehicle, F-150 will apply the brakes to mitigate or avoid it. F-150 is the only light-duty full-size pickup with available Active Park Assist 2.0, which handles all steering, shifting, braking and accelerator controls during a parallel or perpendicular parking maneuver while the driver holds down a button.

I’ve seen various iterations of this technology in other vehicles. As I mentioned, I’m enthralled by it. I’m a big fan of autonomy and will likely be an early adopter, so my opinion is more progressive on this than traditional pickup truck buyers.

Do you need these technologies? No. But it’s nice to have it, just in case you encounter a situation where you might need it.

2021 Ford F-150 towing a boatTrailer Guidance Systems In The 2021 Ford F-150
The 2021 Ford F-150 is the only light-duty full-size pickup to offer available Trailer Reverse Guidance and Pro Trailer Backup Assist. Trailer Reverse Guidance, made popular on Ford’s Super Duty, uses the truck’s high-resolution cameras to provide multiple views along with helpful graphics that tell drivers which way to turn the steering wheel while backing up. Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which makes backing up a trailer as easy as turning a dial, continues on F-150.

Surely many of the long-time truck owners will never want nor need a feature like this. Many truck owners who tow can likely back up a boat or trailer with their eyes half closed. However, there’s a segment of the market that find it intimidating and not intuitive, so what’s the harm in targeting someone like that.

Having it finally available on the F-150, rather than just the Super Duty is a win. If you need the technology it’s there, and if you don’t, then don’t use it.

Over-the-air update in Mustang Mach-EOver-the-air Updates
I reported earlier this year about how over-the-air (OTA) updates, similar to what Tesla does for its vehicles, was coming to the Mustang Mach-E, pictured above. Well Ford announced that OTA technology was also being incorporated into the 2021 F-150.

The all-new F-150 is North America’s first full-size pickup with standard over-the-air updates, helping customers’ trucks stay at the forefront of purposeful technology. These updates are bumper-to-bumper, and can include all-new functions and additional features throughout the life of the truck. They can support preventative maintenance, reduce repair trips, provide improved performance and ultimately result in more vehicle up-time. The majority of updates will be completed in under two minutes and can be performed at times customers choose, so they won’t have to put their lives on hold.

It is really inconvenient taking a vehicle in for general maintenance or if there happens to be a recall. I reported on several recall issues with the current generation F-150 that caused a lot of inconvenience for customers. Imagine not having to go to the dealership and just having the issue fixed while you sleep, and your truck is in your garage? How could anyone be opposed to that technology?

In the official 2021 Ford F-150 press release, one quote specifically caught my eye. “We see it as our duty to deliver not just what our customers want and need, but what they might have never thought possible,” said Craig Schmatz, Ford F-150 chief engineer. “The F-150 will be tougher than ever, and with fully connected over-the-air updates, it opens up a much wider range of potential enhancements – from system upgrades to feature offerings.”

To me this sums up the high-tech 2021 Ford F-150. Embrace the technology rather than grouse about it. You may not know you wanted some of these features.

So you see my take, now I want to hear yours. Where do you stand on these new technologies? Which ones do you like and which ones do you not like or want? Leave me a comment.

Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter, at his special Ford F-150 coverage on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can read the most of Jimmy's stories by searching Torque News Ford for daily Ford vehicle report.


David (not verified)    January 16, 2021 - 6:07PM

Just bought a 2021 F150 Lariat FX4, 3.5 EB. LOVE the truck and the tech. Issue I am having is with the backup trailer assist. Ford provided a sensor kit that appears to only apply to Gooseneck and 5th Wheel trailers. I can't make sense of the instructions to apply it to my conventional boat trailer. There is an option to configure the system using stickers and measurements similar to previous years (I owned a 2016 XLT and loved this feature). However, Ford says a software update is required to configure the sticker option yet the update is not available. I feel stuck without an option -- has anyone else with a 2021 model experienced the same?

gary nelson (not verified)    March 24, 2021 - 11:28AM

I love the truck but can't understand why even the I T guy at the dealership doesn't know about the download. If ford monitors this l would think that they could clarify.