It makes perfect sense for a 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty to use lane-keeping tech.
As you drive, the truck scans for lane markings and alerts you if you veer outside of the lane, which is easy to do when you’re towing a snowmobile. There’s a camera mounted on the windshield near the rear-view mirror (you can barely see it). In the dashboard display, you see two green lines that indicate when you are safely in your lane, and an alert tells you when you’re not.
I know this because I tested the truck for several days, sometimes intentionally (and safely, on a deserted road) veering slightly out of the lane to my right. The display shows a red line when you do this instead of green and you hear a subtle pulse as a warning.
My guess is that people who drive trucks on a daily basis will really appreciate these sensors. In most cases, I drove on a road with clear lane markings, and the warnings flashed right away. In my area, there are a few highways where the markings are not that distinct, and the F-250 still seemed to notice my slight drifting. With a massive truck and a trailer with a snowmobile, this could be a life-saving alert, especially when it comes to any sudden movements to avoid a collision if you do drift entirely out of a lane with a load behind you on a highway.
What comes next? That’s the easy part. We already know many cars from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Tesla will keep you in a lane automatically by adjusting the steering. These luxury car features are spilling over to other segments, including budget cars and trucks. It’s just a matter of time now before the adaptive steering in a Mercedes debuts in a truck.
And the autonomous driving. A company called Peloton Tech is already experimenting heavily with automated truck driving, mostly by platooning trucks so they all drive the same speed on a highway. The added benefit there is fuel savings, but it is mostly a safety feature. Trucks on the road will behave in a more predictable way, aided by sensors that help adjust the speed.
Soon enough, possibly in the next 10 years, we’ll be able to send delivery trucks out on their own, towing a trailer and your Amazon order without any human assistance in the driver’s seat. These trucks won’t even have seats. They will stay in a lane (likely one that’s dedicated to driverless vehicles) or even stay on a road dedicated to delivery trucks.
There are several major benefits to this scenario. Faster and safer deliveries, for one. Mostly, it’s about freeing up drivers to do other work — possibly designing the routes, managing the fleets, and repairing the systems required to make it all happen.
For now, the F-250 I’m driving helped me tow a snowmobile trailer. That’s enough for me, even if it probably looked a little weird watching me test the lane-keeping tech.