Trucks Electronics: 7 Great Upgrades to Look For

Here are some key electronic upgrades worth considering if you're shopping for a new pickup.

Available SYNC 3 system provides voice- and button-actuated phone controls and includes compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, turning full control of a smart phone's features over to the driver.

In the days when pickup trucks were used only as rudimentary tools on wheels, shopping for a new pickup didn't take a lot of consideration because in-cab amenities were simple: vinyl upholstery, rubber flooring, a heater, and — if you splurged — an AM radio playing through a single, tinny speaker. Want to get in touch with the world outside? Get a CB radio, pal.

Over the years, however, trucks evolved into the dual role of working vehicles that are also called on to provide everyday transportation. That evolution has touched every component on a truck, nowhere more so than in the pickup's cab. Today's truck buyers won't compromise their expectations of comfort or convenience just because a vehicle's primary purpose is work. That vehicle must have all the entertainment, connectivity, and driver assistance that can be found in passenger cars and SUVs.  Sophisticated, computer-controlled electronics on today's trucks offer all the functionality of a smart phone or home computer, but with the capability to take that functionality well off the beaten track.

When Ford engineers revamped the F-150 for the 2018 model year, their goals were to make the truck tougher and more capable — but also smarter, building on the in-cab electronics and amenities offered in previous versions of the pickup with new features, some exclusive to the light-truck class. Here are seven key electronic upgrades those shopping for a new pickup will want to consider. 

The dash on the 2018 Ford F-150 includes a handy power outlet for charging laptops.

Sync® 3

To borrow a computing term, the main interface between the driver and the in-cab electronics in the 2018 F-150 is through the available SYNC 3 system. SYNC 3 offers all the hands-free functionality expected from today's vehicles and then some. Voice- and button-actuated phone controls on this available upgrade now include compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, turning full control of a smart phone's features over to the driver.7

The sound system and climate controls respond to voice commands as well as to the buttons on the truck's display screen. That screen is now a capacitive touchscreen — similar to a smart phone screen — that responds to finger commands like swiping. Navigation (with pinch-to-zoom capabilities) can also be controlled via voice commands; and with a subscription to Sirius XM Traffic and Travel Link, the nav system can be overlaid with traffic and weather conditions.

Delve deeper into SYNC 3's playbook to find even more features. It displays (or even reads aloud) incoming texts and allows you to respond with one of up to 15 pre-set messages. The 911 Assist8 feature automatically calls 911 in case of an accident — one serious enough to set off the airbags or engage the fuel-pump shutoff.

SYNC 3's AppLink9 enables voice control of popular mobile apps, including popular music services.

SYNC 3's capabilities expand even further when paired with apps Ford developed. The Sync Connect app turns the F-150 into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot10, so your smart phone is Internet enabled wherever you go. With an accessible range of up to 50 feet, you can browse the web while in camp. So can your buddies, as the hotspot can accommodate up to 10 devices.

Add the FordPass app11 to Sync Connect and you can control certain functions on the truck remotely, like locking and unlocking it, checking its fuel level, and starting the ignition. You can even schedule a time for that remote start, so the truck will be ready to go — and toasty warm — when you're chilled from hours in the stream or the blind. In select locations, FordPass can also look for — and pay for — parking spaces, and compare fuel prices at gas stations along your route. 

On a recent moose hunt, the Outfitters team turned the cab of their 2018 F-150 into a mobile office to review trailcam photos of a nice bull they were hoping to have an encounter with.

Driver Aids12

Making the F-150 smarter for 2018 wasn't just about in-cab amenities. It was also about convenience. Cameras around the truck feed onboard computers, which can help you navigate what can be a very congested — and visually distracting — environment.

The F-150 with available Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go allows you to set a cruising speed (as with a conventional cruise control) but also a following distance from the vehicle ahead. The system then maintains that distance even as traffic speeds change, automatically braking and accelerating as needed. It will even bring the truck to a complete stop, and then start again as traffic begins to move.13

The radar sensor and forward-facing camera can initiate available Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection on the F-150. This driver aid emits a visual warning and an audible alert if it detects a potential collision ahead of the truck. It also pre-loads the brake pedal and increases its sensitivity to get the most out of the brakes when you apply them. If, for some reason, you don't hit the brakes, the truck will do it automatically.14

The available Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go on the F-150 maintains the following distance from the vehicle ahead, braking and accelerating as needed. It will even bring the truck to a complete stop, and then start again as traffic begins to move.

A  forward facing camera in the available Lane-Keeping System monitors the truck's proximity to lane markers in the road and reacts if the truck veers too close to them. When drifting close to a lane marker, it torques (aid). If you continue to drift across the marking, it vibrates (alert). You can choose aid only, alert only or both.

Ford's Blind Spot Information System, or BLIS with trailer coverage uses sensors in the taillights of the F-150 to alert you (with an amber light in the outside rearview mirror) of a vehicle detected approaching in your blind spot. BLIS also monitors your trailer's blind spot, allowing you to set the sensors' effective range to include the length of a trailer (up to 33 feet behind the truck).

The backup camera on the F-150 is home to another Ford feature, Dynamic Hitch Assist, which helps align the truck's hitch and trailer's tongue without needing a spotter (or getting out yourself).

Ford's Blind Spot Information System, or BLIS uses sensors in the taillights of the F-150 to alert you (with an amber light in the outside rearview mirror) of a vehicle approaching from behind.

When the truck is in Reverse, the camera display on the center stack screen includes a black dotted line extending from the hitch ball. That dotted line moves when you turn the steering wheel, so lining up truck and trailer becomes a simple matter of following the dotted line to the tongue. A zoom button on the screen gives you a closer view of the hitch and its position relative to the trailer, so as the two get closer you can make the small adjustments needed to drop the tongue right on the ball.

Once attached, backing up your trailer is easy in an F-150 with the available Pro Trailer Backup Assist. With this available upgrade, you don't touch the steering wheel at all while in reverse. Pro Trailer Backup Assist uses the F-150's backup camera mounted in the tailgate to track the trailer's location, while the driver changes the trailer's direction via a knob on the instrument panel.

Available Pro Trailer Backup Assist uses the backup camera mounted in the tailgate of the F-150 to track the trailer's location, while the driver changes the trailer's direction via a knob on the instrument panel.

To see the new 2018 Ford F-150 in the field on action-packed fishing and hunting adventures, visit The Ford Outfitters.

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