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Pickup Tech

Contrary to their ruffian aura, today’s pickup trucks employ advanced tech…

By Casey Williams

When you think about the most dazzling high-tech autos, your brain probably conjures up images of hyper-fast sports cars, expensive German sedans, or electric cars from a certain California-based automaker. Hard-working, high-hiking pickup trucks are probably not in your dream book…but these pack mules employ the most advanced technology on the road today. These trucks are more efficient than their predecessors and offer advanced technology way beyond their ruffian aura.

Consider the new Ford F-150 Hybrid, which offers frugal fuel economy but also enhanced power for towing heavy loads. Trailer backing guides appear on its wide tablet-style touchscreen that rivals Tesla, but that’s not its real talent. Having a big battery pack on-board enables an integrated power generator that can electrify backyard improvement projects, campsites and tailgating parties through outlets in the bedside. Designers even tailored the tailgate as a worktable with places to clamp down projects. Try that in your Prius.

Just like luxury sedans, trucks use air suspension systems to cosset passengers in sublime comfort, but in trucks these systems are also useful for more practical reasons, like the ability to raise up for extreme off-roading or for kneeling to disembark passengers and slip under trailer hitches. Air suspensions are available on full-size pickups from Chevrolet, GMC and Ram, but they will also underpin imminent electrics from Hummer and Rivian.

Automated driving systems are also prominent in pickup trucks. One of the first vehicles on which GM deployed its Super Cruise hands-off driving system was the truck-based Cadillac Escalade. Expect the system to be added to the Hummer this year and the GMC Sierra during the 2022 model year. The system can be used on over 300,000 kilometres of compatible roads in the US and Canada. Tesla’s new Cybertruck is expected to employ the automaker’s Autopilot system.

Beyond quiet efficiency, electric powertrains add talents to make trucks better. Ford’s workstation is only a start. Rivian’s R1T electric pickup takes advantage of its low flat floor to offer a pull-out grille that’s stored in a cavern between the bed and cabin. Owners can camp off-grid for days while barely affecting driving range of up to 640 kilometres. Four electric motors allow the truck to turn in all directions without effort.

Although the GMC Hummer won’t have a built-in stove, it is the ultimate pickup technology showcase. Beyond an air suspension and Super Cruise, it employs electronic four-wheel steering that can turn front and rear wheels in opposite directions to shorten turning on trails and parking garages. It can also move wheels in the same direction to “crab crawl” near sideways. Removable roof panels and underbody cameras to keep an eye on what’s going on underneath the vehicle on trails add to its all-terrain proficiency. Sales begin later this year.

Pickups have long been beasts of burden (and play), employing automotive technology to make their work easier. The latest can run without gasoline, leap over off-road obstacles, power a campsite and even cook dinner. They are certainly not the stark rudimentary beasts many imagine, and will only advance through the coming EV (electric vehicle) Age.

CASEY WILLIAMS is a contributing writer for He contributes to the New York-based LGBT magazine Metrosource and the Chicago Tribune. He and his husband live in Indianapolis, where Williams contributes videos and reviews to, the area’s PBS/NPR station.

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