For decades, the pickup truck has been the redneck-jock of automobiles – big, strong, dirty and not necessarily all that smart or refined. With the Atlas Concept, Ford envisions a future where the pickup truck adds a dose of technology and refinement. Consider the Atlas Concept that infuriating jock that managed to get straight As while playing a sport every season.

Large pickup trucks have traditionally served as utilitarian work oxen, hauling provisions to remote worksites, towing cargo trailers, and performing other jobs that would cause lesser vehicles to resign on the spot. They're defined by those types of roles, using muscular gas and diesel engines, off-road-ready drive configurations, and big cargo beds to get things done.

Ford intends for future pickups to keep those qualities, which have long endeared them to the likes of cowboys and construction crews, but with a bit more thoughtfulness. Ford refers to the concept as "working and playing smarter, not harder."

The Atlas begins "working smarter" before the driver even gets behind the wheel. A Cargo Cradle rises off the tailgate and provides extra support for long cargo while freeing up bed space. Cargo Ramps stored underneath the bed make it easy to wheel tractors, quads and other equipment up into the bed. The Dynamic Hitch Assist precisely lines up the truck hitch and trailer coupling, delivering visual cues on the Atlas' infotainment display. An integrated roof carrier and cargo bed tie-down points add even more hauling versatility.

Once everything is loaded, the Atlas eases the strain of driving a heavy, cumbersome work truck. The Trailer Backup Assist makes it easier to back a trailer, and the 360-degree bird's eye-view camera delivers a full view of the truck, useful in maneuvering through and parking in tight spaces. The concept also has more traditional driver-assist systems like Blind Spot Information System, Lane Departure Warning and adaptive cruise control.

Once at work, the Atlas provides several helpful advantages. LED spotlights on the side mirrors illuminate the job site for work that doesn't end when the sun goes down, and LEDs on the cargo bed ensure that workers can easily find their tools. The 110-volt electrical outlets in the bed and cabin serve to provide power and charging.

Fuel economy is usually a secondary consideration to truck users that need something that is large and capable, but Ford reasons that there's no reason not to get as much economy as possible out of its truck. The Atlas is powered by a next-generation EcoBoost engine with truck-optimized Auto Start-Stop and a fuel-saving transmission. The start-stop feature shuts down the engine when stopped in traffic but keeps the engine running when the truck is towing a load. A series of efficiency-optimizing technologies, including active grille shutters, active wheel shutters, drop-down front air dam, and power running boards, improve aerodynamics to get even more mileage.

Ford updates its truck interior with "thin, lightweight" leather seating designed to increase legroom; oversized, glove-friendly controls; ice blue lighting; and an infotainment system with "truck apps," MyFord Touch and SYNC. Multiple USB ports charge smaller, more techy tools of the trade. The Intelligent Access system automatically unlocks doors and tailgate when the owner approaches.

Ford introduced the Atlas Concept at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in January. This week it further highlighted the conceptual truck by showing how some initial ideas were refined into the features actually included on the Detroit concept car.

The distinctive Cargo Cradle, for instance, was created as a means of adding usefulness to the traditional tailgate, which began with the idea of a tailgate-integrated storage box. Similarly, the lighting for the bed was moved from the truck roof to the cargo box walls.

Take a look at the gallery for more angles of the Atlas concept and other features that were dropped or refined from earlier iterations.

Source: Ford