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.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 13: Forest Buffalo

Craig Boddington returns to Mozambique's fame Coutada 10 for a shot a forest buffalo that's eluded him for 10 years.

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 12: High Plains Elk

David Draper teams up with Fred Eichler to hunt elk on the high plains of southern Colorado.

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 9: Aloha Axis Deer

Host Mike Schoby joins his buddies Jon Dubin and Jeff Johnston on the island of Lanai for a deer hunt Hawaiian style!

2018 Petersen

2018 Petersen's Hunting Episode 11: Wheelgun Buffalo

Host Craig Boddington lays claim to hunting more than 100 Cape Buffalo over the course of his 40 plus year career, but he never took one with a handgun. That changed in South Africa when Craig faced down "black death" with a magnum wheelgun.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

My deer-hunting seeds were planted and nurtured as a youngster on my family's small farm in North America

Best Units for Hunting Western Mule Deer

Josh Dahlke

My deer-hunting seeds were planted and nurtured as a youngster on my family's small farm in

Follow these basic steps to prepare your meat, then pair it with one of these delicious marinades. Recipes

8 Best Venison Marinades

Hank Shaw

Follow these basic steps to prepare your meat, then pair it with one of these delicious...

What's The Best Coyote Cartridge? .22-250 Versus .223 Ammo

What's The Best Coyote Cartridge? .22-250 Versus .223

Joseph von Benedikt & David Faubion

What's The Best Coyote Cartridge? .22-250 Versus .223

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these guns. Survival

Which Firearm Is Best for Bear Defense?

Larry Case - July 11, 2018

If you're spending time in the outdoors where you might encounter bears, carry one of these...

See More Trending Articles

More Accessories

Have a hunter or a recreational shooter on your shopping list this holiday season? Then give these gift ideas some serious consideration for wrapping up and putting under the Christmas tree! Accessories

Must-Have Gear for the Hunters on Your Christmas List

Lynn Burkhead - November 25, 2018

Have a hunter or a recreational shooter on your shopping list this holiday season? Then give...

Check out a great new pack from ALPS OutdoorZ that is perfect for western hunting, the Hybrid Accessories

Introducing the ALPS OutdoorZ Hybrid X

PH Online Editors - January 19, 2018

Check out a great new pack from ALPS OutdoorZ that is perfect for western hunting, the Hybrid

OSG live stream host Michael Bane met up with Holder to talk duck hunting memories and to discuss the attributes of Sure-Shot's new Yentzen One2 double-reed duck call. Accessories

Sure-Shot Game Calls' Yentzen One2 Duck Call

G&A Staff - January 29, 2018

OSG live stream host Michael Bane met up with Holder to talk duck hunting memories and to...

These ballistic apps will help put your shot right on the money.
Ballistic apps and laser Accessories

Tested: 4 Best Apps For Long-Range Shooting

Keith Wood - October 26, 2017

These ballistic apps will help put your shot right on the money. Ballistic apps and laser

See More Accessories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.