Between now and the middle of this century, analysts predict that the world's vehicle population will quadruple, going from around one billion today to four billion by 2050. To keep perpetual, global gridlock at bay and reduce consumption, automakers and communication providers have to team up, and that's exactly what Bill Ford Jr. proposed on Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
Under the banner "Blueprint for Mobility," the great-grandson of Henry Ford detailed what it will take to make congestion-free motoring (or at least congestion-controlled) a reality in the coming decades, utilizing a combination of connected cars, connected roadways and a totally revamped mobile infrastructure.
"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," Ford told the assembled masses in Spain.
Ford's proposal comes in three parts – near-term (5-7 years), mid-term (2017-2025) and long-term (2025 and beyond) – with the first part requiring the development and deployment of vehicle-to-vehicle warning systems, "limited autonomous functions" (think next-gen adaptive cruise control) and the expansion of car sharing programs like ZipCar.
Mid-term solutions range from semi-autonomous vehicles to new city car models that carry between one and three passengers, while long-term proposals include a range of intermodal transportation networks that combine individually owned cars with public transportation, fully autonomous vehicles and a constantly connected road network that uses vehicle-to-vehicle communication and road trains.
It's all ambitious stuff and echoes much of what we've heard from other automakers, including Audi, BMW and General Motors, who have all announced plans to move beyond being a standard automaker and instead become "mobility providers." Get the full details on Ford's proposal in the official release after the jump.
Today at Mobile World Congress, Ford Motor Company's Executive Chairman, Bill Ford, presented his forward-looking vision of a globally connected transportation system that utilizes autonomous driving technology to accommodate the rapidly growing number of motorists on today's roadways.
Titled "Blueprint for Mobility", Bill Ford outlined some of the most bold and exciting plans for technological progress in the automobile industry, all of which aim towards the common goal of preventing 'global gridlock'.
Walking the audience down a timeline, Bill Ford detailed the near-term and long-term thinking of what Ford envisions transportation will look like in 2025 and beyond. Exciting ideas presented include:
Autonomous "Auto-Pilot" Capabilities
Traffic Jam Alerts
Vehicle-to-Vehicle Infrastructure Communication
For your reference, I've pasted the full press release that details Bill Ford's exciting presentation on the future of transportation below my signature. Please have a read and let me know if I can provide you with any additional information or set up a call with a Ford executive to discuss these exciting visions for transportation.
Bill Ford Outlines "Blueprint for Mobility" Vision – Calls On
Mobile Industry to Help Develop Transportation Solutions
· Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford outlines vision for smart transportation and need for development of intelligent vehicles and transport systems at Mobile World Congress
· Ford Motor Company's "Blueprint for Mobility" calls for partnership with telecommunications industry to create an inter-connected transportation network as
part of the solution for alleviating "global gridlock"
· Ford envisions a radically different transportation landscape where pedestrian, bicycle, private car, commercial and public transportation traffic are woven into a connected network to save time, conserve resources, lower emissions and improve safety
· Ford is already developing new business models and partnerships in anticipation of personal vehicle ownership in cities becoming increasingly impractical
· Ford announces AppLink smart phone app voice-control system to go global
BARCELONA, Spain, Feb. 27, 2012 – Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford has outlined a plan for connected cars to help avoid a potential future of crippling congestion.
During his keynote address at the 2012 Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Ford told delegates that the number of cars on the world's roads is forecast to grow from 1 billion now to up to 4 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 utilizes communication between vehicles, transport infrastructure and individual mobile devices.
"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," said Ford in a preview of Ford Motor Company's "Blueprint for Mobility". "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."
Addressing Mobile World Congress delegates earlier in the day Ford Motor Company also took the opportunity to announce that AppLink, a feature which delivers voice control of smart phone apps from the driver's seat, is being introduced globally as part of the SYNC voice-control and in-car connectivity system.
In the spirit of cooperation outlined in the keynote address, Ford plans to work closely with app developers around the world to provide the best services for Ford customers through AppLink.
"Blueprint for Mobility" adapts to a changing transport landscape
The company's "Blueprint for Mobility" 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 2 and 3 hours a day. Despite this, car buying is growing at a rate of 7.5 percent 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 keynote 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, including;
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 utilization 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 1, 2 and 3-passenger vehicles are introduced to help manoeuver 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
Bill Ford's keynote at the 2012 Mobile World Congress was the first ever to be delivered at the leading annual communications industry event by an automotive industry executive, and followed his address at the TED 2011 conference in Long Beach, Calif.