Thanks a million, Ford.
Reversing a trailer or caravan into a parking spot is one of the most demanding car-related tasks there is. We're sure there will be commenters below who claim they can do it perfectly, but please stop lying to the world, sir or madam. To ideally reverse a trailer, you need the bravery of a seasoned rally driver like Walter Rohrl mixed with the precision of Michael Schumacher.
Ford, it seems, wants to come to our collective rescue. Motor Authority recently discovered a patent filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It shows a smartphone app form where you can control the car like a big RC car with a rig attached to the rear.
According to the patent, the mobile device provides an intuitive user interface and control input mechanism for controlling the vehicle and trailer.
To control the car and trailer, the user has to simply tilt the phone up and down to accelerate and slow down, and lift either side of the phone to turn left and right.
That's all good and well, but steering and acceleration are not the problems. The main problem in this scenario is the counterintuitive steering wheel inputs and the limited view from the driver's seat.
This feature allows you to get out of the car and get a complete picture. Not just by looking with your eyeballs but also via multiple camera angles streamed from the vehicle to the device.
The patent images show that the car would need at least a 360-degree camera system with a bird's eye view camera. The patent filing mentions a path input and explains how the system can be operated in two ways. The first is using it manually, while the second is selecting a path or end destination (in this case, a camping spot) and then controlling the throttle.
You can also scroll through various path options determined by the system and select the one you're most comfortable with. The speed will be determined by the car's autonomous rating, but it does not appear to be a system that can be left to its own devices. The last thing the world needs is a Ford F-150 Lightning reversing a trailer at 50 mph.
To prevent a runaway reversing car, the operator must always keep two fingers on the screen. If one finger leaves the phone's touchscreen, the car will immediately stop and put itself in park.
Ford is on a mission to improve the trailering experience. It introduced the advanced Ultimate Trailer Tow Camera System with Pro Trailer Backup Assist and autonomous trailer hitching.
These systems may seem unnecessary or even stupid to those who tow regularly, but remember that a large chunk of the population has almost zero experience with a trailer. They only rent one once every five years to move some furniture, and in that scenario, these various features are beneficial.