BARCELONA, Spain - Bill Ford has become the first automotive leader to deliver the keynote address at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. He used the occasion to outline a plan for connected cars to help avoid a potential future of crippling congestion.
Ford told delegates that the number of cars on the world’s roads is forecast to grow from one billion now to up to four billion by mid-century. And he proposed that one way of avoiding the potentially global problem of an overcrowded road network is to create a global transportation network that utilises communication between vehicles, transport infrastructure and individual mobile devices.
Ford said: “If we do nothing, we face the prospect of ‘global gridlock’, a never-ending traffic jam that wastes time, energy and resources and even compromises the flow of commerce and healthcare.
“The cooperation needed between the automotive and telecommunications industries will be greater than ever as we prepare for and manage the future. We will need to develop new technologies, as well as new ways of looking at the world,” he added.
“No one company or industry will be able to solve the mobility issue alone and the speed at which solutions take hold will be determined largely by customer acceptance of new technologies. The telecommunications industry is critical in the creation of an inter-connected transportation system where cars are intelligent and can talk to one another as well as the infrastructure around them. Now is the time for us all to be looking at vehicles on the road the same way we look at smartphones, laptops and tablets; as pieces of a much bigger, richer network.”
“Blueprint for Mobility”
Ford also spoke about the Company’s “Blueprint for Mobility”, which defines the start of Ford’s thinking on future transportation. It will seek solutions for a problem that is already becoming a reality in expanding vehicle markets around the world.
In Sao Paulo, traffic jams regularly exceed 100 miles and the average commute lasts between two to three hours a day. Despite this, car buying is growing at a rate of 7.5 per cent annually. In China, the world’s longest period of gridlock was registered at 11 days during 2010.
The problem is not restricted to emerging markets, either. For example, it is estimated that the cost of congestion to the economy in England through lost time will rise to around $35 billion (€26 billion) annually by 2025. In Germany, sustaining a town of 300,000 people is estimated to require 1,000 truck deliveries daily.
Solving the issue of urban mobility is a huge challenge that will only be successful if government collaboration, infrastructure development and industry come together globally.
During his address, Ford focused on the opportunities and challenges presented by expanding communication networks and increasing global demand for personal mobility and commercial transportation as he outlined his vision for a future transport network integrated with mobile communications.
And as with the Company’s “Blueprint for Sustainability,” which set near, mid- and long-term goals for significant reductions in the Company’s global environmental footprint, the “Blueprint for Mobility” defines the start of Ford’s thinking on what transportation will look like in 2025 and beyond, and the technologies, business models and partnerships needed to get there.
Near-Term (5-7 years)
- Ford Motor Company to be at the forefront of developing increasingly intuitive in-car mobile communications options and driver interfaces that proactively alert drivers to traffic jams and accidents.
- Developmental projects such as the vehicle-to-vehicle warning systems currently being explored at Ford’s European Research and Advanced Engineering Centre, in Aachen, Germany, and intelligent speed control features to grow in capability.
- The delivery of a better-connected, safer and more efficient driving experience with limited autonomous functions for parking and driving in slow-moving traffic – building on existing Ford features including Active Park Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and Active City Stop.
- Further development and defining of new vehicle ownership models, as already demonstrated through the Ford collaboration with Zipcar, the world's largest car sharing and car club service.
Mid-Term (2017 – 2025)
- The introduction of semi-autonomous driving technology including driver-initiated “auto pilot” capabilities and vehicle platooning in limited situations - technologies that will provide improved safety and driver assistance features, but allow the driver to take control, if needed.
- Significantly more interaction between individual cars on the road through utilisation of ever-increasing computing power and numbers of sensors in vehicles, helping reduce the number of accidents at intersections and enabling limited semi-autonomous and autonomous highway lane changing and exiting.
- The arrival of vehicle-to-cloud and vehicle-to infrastructure communication that contribute to greater time and energy efficiency by enabling vehicles to recommend alternative transport options when congestion is unavoidable and to pre-reserve parking at destinations.
- The emergence of an integrated transport network, featuring cars plugged into public databases.
- New city vehicle options as more and more one, two and three-passenger vehicles are introduced to help manoeuvre city streets.
“Cars are becoming mobile communications platforms and as such, they are a great untapped opportunity for the telecommunications industry. Right now, there are a billion computing devices in the form of individual vehicles out on our roads. They’re largely unconnected from one another and the network,” Ford said.
- “We’ll increasingly take advantage of the car as a rolling collection of sensors to reduce congestion and help prevent accidents. I’m confident that we will see many of these advances on the road in this mid-term period because the early versions are already being designed, and in most cases, tested.”
- A radically different transportation landscape where pedestrian, bicycle, private car, commercial and public transportation traffic will be woven into a single connected network to save time, conserve resources, lower emissions and improve safety.
- Arrival of smart vehicles capable of fully autonomous navigation, with increased “auto pilot” operating duration, plus the arrival of autonomous valet functions, delivering effortless vehicle parking and storage.
- Development of a true network of mobility solutions, with personal vehicle ownership complimented by greater use of connected and efficient shared services, and completely new business models contributing to improved personal mobility.