Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford is worried about "global gridlock" over the next four decades. The good news is that he sees a way out of the morass, a plan called the "Blueprint for Mobility" that he outlined during a keynote speech at the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where he explained how the automotive and communications industries will need to cooperate to create in-car functions that will help alleviate the impact of more cars on the road.
Ford estimated that the number of light-duty vehicles on the road worldwide will quadruple to four billion over the next four decades. He spoke of congestion issues in places like Sao Paolo, where 100-mile traffic jams have been reported. To alleviate problems like this, automakers and communications companies should use the Blueprint's three-part plan, which focuses on the next 5-7 years, then the 2017-2025 time frame and things that come after 2025.
The key will be collaboration on in-vehicle communications systems over the next few decades in order to offset the effect of such a jump in vehicles, Ford said. For instance, by the end of the decade, Ford projected cars will have systems that will warn drivers of accidents or traffic jams, as well as vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems that allow cars that can self-park or self-drive in slow-moving traffic. He also sees an expansion of car sharing programs like ZipCar. By 2025, vehicles may have self-driving capabilities for highway driving, including lane-changing and highway-exiting functions and cloud communication systems that will allow the vehicle to suggest alternate routes.
Finally, between 2025 and 2050, cars may develop auto-pilot type navigation as well as automated valet systems that allow the cars to park themselves, according to Ford. With four billion vehicles on the road, though, finding a place to park may be the bigger problem.
•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 Congress 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.
Ford at 2012 Mobile World Congress
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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 164,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit http://corporate.ford.com
Ford of Europe is responsible for producing, selling and servicing Ford brand vehicles in 51 individual markets and employs approximately 66,000 employees. In addition to Ford Motor Credit Company, Ford of Europe operations include Ford Customer Service Division and 22 manufacturing facilities, including joint ventures. The first Ford cars were shipped to Europe in 1903 – the same year Ford Motor Company was founded. European production started in 1911.