On average, around 350,000 trailers are produced annually in North America. While technological advances have been slow in coming, recent developments highlight not only the increasing use of innovative technologies but equally customer willingness to embrace them.

Against this backdrop, Ford has just released the Pro Trailer Hitch Assist customized to work with its F-150, F-150 Lightning and all-new F-Series Super Duty trucks. The system leverages advanced artificial intelligence (AI), including computer vision and machine learning, to facilitate the automatic reversing of the truck and the alignment of its hitch ball to the trailer’s coupler. This is achieved through the simple expedient of pushing a button. This smart solution uses cameras and radars to accurately detect the positions of the hitch ball and coupler relative to each other, while controlling multiple parameters like speed and braking to make the process of physically fitting the ball into the coupler extremely easy and convenient.

Built in-house, the Pro-Trailer Hitch Assist technology is part of a complementary suite of driver-assist technologies developed by Ford for its popular F-series models. These include the Pro Trailer Backup Assist that assists with reversing, smart tail lamps that display payload capacity, and online scales that optimize payload weight.

To learn more, please access North American Technological Advances in Trailer Growth Opportunities and North American Trailer Telematics Growth Opportunities, or contact sathyanarayanak@frost.com for information on a private briefing.

Modular Hardware and Comprehensive Software to Underpin Customized Solutions

The Pro Trailer Hitch Assist underlines trends where both truck OEMs and telematics providers are spurring rapid progress in smart trailer technologies. Over the next decade, we will see technological transformation focused on fuel efficiency enhancements and payload rationalization. In addition, the spotlight will be on realizing trailer efficiency through connectivity and telematics technologies that generate real-time data and analysis and powertrain electrification that reduce emissions.

Today, customers, whether individual or fleet, are constantly looking to maximize efficiencies. AI-enabled smart technologies can streamline operations and assist with resource efficiencies. In the case of Ford’s Pro Trailer assist technologies, for instance, time savings represent a significant benefit since the driver saves on the typically lengthy time associated with the process of hitching ball to coupler.

Overall, the North American trailer market has seen other developments, including the emergence of modular hardware platforms capable of integrating multiple sensors. The objective here has been to facilitate easy scalability and rapid service portfolio expansion. In 2023, AI and machine learning (ML) solutions, coupled with Internet of Things (IoT) and sensor suites, will continue to make trailers more intelligent and efficient. Indeed, the use of such technologies will enable improved predictive maintenance, better uptimes, and reduced total cost of ownership (TCO).

One of the components of improved TCO is payload optimization. In general, such a feature is not only crucial for freight efficiency but also allows for the incorporation of different battery sizes as electrification trends gain momentum.

The North American trailer telematics market has been characterized by intense competition and market fragmentation.  Attracted by its revenue potential, several non-telematics companies—hardware suppliers, engine, brakes, and tire manufacturers, among them—have entered the market in recent years. These new entrants are focused on aggressive portfolio expansion, adding telematics solutions to their traditional offerings. While some have embraced the inorganic route via partnerships, mergers, and acquisitions to penetrate the market, others like Ford have turned inwards to design a suite of driver-assist technologies for their own vehicles.

In general, the market is shifting towards open platforms that support integration of multiple vendors. This is seen as a way of offering customers more value. Solution customization is becoming widespread as a result of increasing modularity in hardware platforms and the use of open architecture in software systems.

As OEMs like Ford move into an evolving digitally driven space, telematics hardware providers will need to focus not only on hardware but equally on building a comprehensive suite of telematics solutions as well. Innovative business models will open up new revenue streams for stakeholders and accelerate the growth of the trailer telematics market in North America.

With inputs from Amrita Shetty, Senior Manager – Communications & Content, Mobility

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