In this Truck Trends column, we’ll look for the latest information about trucks and tow vehicles with insider stories and tips about tow vehicles of all sorts.
While Elon Musk gets all the credit for hands-free driving, it was actually General Motors who had it first on their Cadillac CT6. But that was also the only car from the General that had the feature and it was discontinued last year.
That’s about to change with GM’s “Super Cruise” coming to a variety of trucks and cars. But it’s what is being done in the trucks that’s the most exciting to me.
When the freshened GMC Sierra pickup arrives next year, it will have a package where the Super Cruise feature will allow you to drive hands-free but, more importantly, to tow hands-free. In fact, the Super Cruise implementation on GMC Sierra Denali pickups even will allow you to overtake other vehicles, all while sitting back and just watching it happen.
GM’s system is set up so that it only operates on certain roads based on data available and road conditions and types.
“The technology just continues to get better with Super Cruise,” said Phil Brook, vice president of Buick GMC marketing. “It’ll be capable of towing as well, which is pretty remarkable … towing with different lengths and different loads.”
Super Cruise works by combining the driver’s attention with LiDAR map data, real-time cameras, sensors and GPS. A driver attention system uses a small camera that sits on the top of the steering column. It works with infrared lights to determine where the driver is looking whenever Super Cruise is in operation.
If the driver attention system detects the driver has looked away from the road ahead for too long, the steering wheel light bar will prompt the driver to pay attention to the road.
In addition to the GMC Sierra Denali, the feature will be available on several GM cars as well, albeit minus the ability to tow. It will also be offered on the Cadillac Escalade. As of now, there is no word on when it will be available on the Chevrolet Silverado, the chassis mate to the GMC Sierra.
Over 200,000 miles of roads in North America have been mapped for use with the Super Cruise system by General Motors.
The driver, or observer, can choose from among three lane-change modes with Super Cruise. When automatic lane changes are enabled, any time the Super Cruise-equipped vehicle approaches on a vehicle moving below the cruising speed set by the “driver,” the sensors will look to the lane on the left to determine if it is clear and provide an audible signal to the driver.
If it is safe to move over, Super Cruise executes the lane change unless the driver taps the turn signal stalk to cancel the maneuver. Once safely clear of the slower vehicle, Super Cruise will return to the original lane. While GM engineers have programmed in proper lane discipline for Super Cruise by passing on the left and then exiting that lane, the system can also pass on the right if the left lane is blocked and the right is clear.
Ford Blue Cruise
Not to be outdone, Ford’s own Blue Cruise is also coming to pickups through an over-the-air update so that you can drive down the road without touching the steering wheel, but not while towing. The feature is specifically disabled in the F-Series pickups while towing. Bummer.
If you’re a fan of Elon Musk, know, too, that Teslas equipped with the “self-driving” function also disable this feature when towing.
Other Ford news
Our own RV electricity expert, Mike Sokol, is testing a Ford F-150 with PowerBoost in real-world conditions. The system incorporates a built-in generator and up to 7.2 kilowatts of generator capability, delivering that power through a 240-volt 30-amp outlet.
With his GoGreenRV testing program, Mike is evaluating the capabilities of the truck and has reported that it can, indeed, supply enough power for two 30-amp travel trailers running their air conditioning at the same time.
The system will also use the engine as an onboard generator when the truck is stationary or can provide power to the trailer when on the go. There’s an onboard 1.4-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery that can actually propel the truck without the engine having to be on but can be used with an integrated electric motor to provide a boost to the gasoline engine as well.
While electric trucks are making all the noise in today’s market, this truck is really an absolute game-changer for RVers and can completely obliterate the need for a separate noisy generator that requires its own scheduled maintenance.
We’ll have more reports back from Mike in his own column here and shared in this space as well.
Speaking of electric trucks
The slightly ridiculous Hummer is also going to be available with GM’s Super Cruise. It will add Android Automotive integration that includes Google Maps, which will show off which routes incorporate Super Cruise. If you want to be best able to use that feature, this might be the platform to do so.
However, the Hummer is presently an electric-only platform and there are still real-world questions about towing with an electric vehicle and where to charge those when your backcountry adventure needs refueling.
Remember the Ford Maverick?
If you’re old enough, you’ll remember the “compact” (by 1970s standards) Ford Maverick. Well, the name is back – but this time it’s stuck to a truck. But not just any truck.
Like the Maverick of days gone by, this is at the smaller end of Ford’s lineup. It is a vehicle that is smaller than the present-day Ranger and more like a car, on paper, than a traditional truck. Traditional trucks tend to be based on a heavy frame onto which the bed and cab are attached.
Cars, on the other hand, are generally built in a single welded unit called a unibody. Many Crossovers are also built like this. The point being, this new little truck is also a unibody design. That means that it’s less modifiable but also lighter in weight.
All Mavericks will also be hybrids featuring a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Somewhere in that mix is also an electric traction motor.
Ford claims that the little sucker can haul about 1,500 pounds but also can tow 2,000 pounds. If towing really is your thing, you can opt for a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder model mated to an eight-speed automatic and either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive and can tow up to 4,000 pounds.
This might be a good choice for some folks who tow infrequently and don’t want a larger vehicle.
Tony comes to RVTravel having worked at an RV dealership and been a lifelong RV enthusiast. He also has written the syndicated Curbside column about cars. You can find his writing here and at StressLessCamping where he also has a podcast about the RV life with his wife.