Most of us are aware of Bill Ford, Jr.'s obsession with green technology that will help conserve fossil fuels while at the same time preserving the environment, but what you may not know that the Ford family scion is also very much interested in the future of gridlock.
Ford spoke at the Technology Entertainment and Design 2011 conference (better known as TED) to discuss the growing problem, and it appears the traffic buildup has just begun. The Ford Motor Company Chairman said in the post-jump video that the population of the planet is expected to jump from 6.8 billion people to about nine billion by mid-century. And with other countries around the world continuing to prosper, we could see cars and trucks on the road grow from today's 800 million vehicles to between two and four billion by 2050. That's a big jump, and when you consider that the typical commute in Shanghai is now about five hours, you can see how big a problem gridlock can become.
Hit the jump to read Ford Motor's TED conference press release, then feel free to watch video of Ford's speech. Towards the end of the video, Ford shows that some solutions to gridlock are beginning to present themselves, including smart vehicles that can communicate traffic information to one another in real-time, but there is still a lot of work to do.
The problem can be defined by numbers. The world's population is growing and is becoming more affluent. There are approximately 6.8 billion people in the world today. Within our lifetime, that number will approach 9 billion. Today, there are about 800 million vehicles on the road worldwide but by mid-century that number could grow to between 2 and 4 billion.
If we continue to follow the personal mobility model that is now in place the world's roads are going to become too crowded. Commutes will become longer; traffic jams will become larger and more ubiquitous. Economic opportunity will be stifled. More time and resources will be squandered while people try to get from point A to point B. This all threatens the promises of both physical and social mobility which in turn lessens opportunities to improve the world's standards of living.
There's no single answer to this new threat to our mobility, and it isn't going to be solved by one person or group. It's going to take corporations, entrepreneurs, NGOs, universities, governments and other interested parties all working together to build a global, interconnected system of transportation and mobility solutions. Smart businesses, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists will see this as a tremendous opportunity and a job creator.
Cars, of course, will always be a major mobility enabler, but they will need to better work in harmony with other cars and other forms of transportation. We need smart cars and smart infrastructure that communicate and use real-time data to maximize their efficiency. We also need to tie in innovative solutions like new, ground up development models (city of Masdar), traffic management (34th St. in Manhattan) and smart parking. The good news is that progress is being made on all of these fronts.
At Ford, we are rapidly expanding our commitment to intelligent cars that can wirelessly talk to each other to help make driving safer, more efficient and more enjoyable. We're doubling our intelligent vehicle investment in 2011, and we've initiated a new 20-member task force of scientists and engineers to explore the technology's broader possibilities.
Just as we all embraced the green energy challenge, we must now start attacking global gridlock with the same passion. We are starting to make progress, but we've got a long way to go.