To most people, Bill Ford is most famous for being the great-grandson of Henry Ford. But, as the executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, Ford has also been leading the company into greener and greener territory. At the morning plenary session for the 21st World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) in Detroit today, Ford discussed a wide variety of topics, including connected cars (of course), plug-in vehicle and how Ford's collaboration with Zipcar came about because of he liked what the Zipcar CEO was excited about getting cars off the road.

Given that the conference has a big focus on communication between cars this year, it's no surprise that Ford talked about his company's work on that front. He's looking at the long term, though, and says that despite announcements like the one General Motors made yesterday about Super Cruise, when fully autonomous vehicles get here, it won't be headline news since the ground work is being laid by technologies coming to cars in bits and pieces now. In other words, your adaptive cruise control is getting ready for bigger and better things.

"My fear is that we electrify the fleet and our impact is not what it could be." – Bill Ford

On the zero-emission vehicle front, Ford said that while he's in favor of electric vehicles, "My fear is that we electrify the fleet and our impact is not what it could be." He was discussing the emissions reality of coal-powered electricity, and said that, "We've got to have a national discussion about what we want our grid to look like."

As for the work that Ford is doing with Zipcar (which is just one of the many automaker carsharing operations out there today), Ford said that he first approached Zipcar CEO Scott Griffith after hearing Griffith talk at a green conference four or five years ago. Griffith was surprised, Ford said, because he had just given a talk about ways to reduce car ownership. "Did you hear my speech? I talked about taking cars off the road," Ford remembers Griffith saying. "Yeah, and what's going to happen without us," Ford responded. Today, the partnership allows Ford to get cars to people that have traditionally been "hard to reach," like college students on campuses. Ford's vehicles are currently available on 250 colleges campuses. Ford then spoke favorably about other challenges to the traditional car ownership model, like Lyft and Relay Rides. "Rather than being frightened by that, we need embrace it and help makes their companies better," he said. "Disruption is happening every day, and it's going to happen faster and faster and faster."

You can watch Ford's 2011 TED talk and his speech at the 2011 ITS conference below. You might notice some familiar themes.


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