Bill Ford outlines “Blueprint for Mobility”, calls for automotive and telecommunications industries to collaborate to address coming personal mobility crisis
During his keynote address at the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford outlined a plan for connected cars to help avoid a potential future of what he called “global gridlock—a never-ending traffic jam that wastes time, energy and resources.”
Bill Ford began talking about the future of personal mobility in the context of ever-increasing congestion last year at the TED2011 conference in Long Beach. The problem is basically one of scale: 7 billion people in the world today, projected to grow to 9 billion in our lifetime. About one billion cars on the road worldwide today, which, with more people and greater prosperity, could grow to up to 4 billion by mid-century. In the decades to come, 75% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities, with 50 of those cities having more than 10 million people.
Even with zero emissions and renewable energy sources, four billion cars are still four billion cars.—Bill Ford
In Sao Paulo, traffic jams already 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% 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.
In his keynote, Ford called for partnership between the automotive and telecommunications industries to create an inter-connected transportation network as part of the solution.
Fortunately, working together is not something new to our industries. Throughout our histories we have come together to move things forward at key times...We will once again need new technologies, as well as new ways of looking at the world.
To begin with, we need to view the automobile as one element of a transportation ecosystem, and look for new ways to optimize the entire system. We need cars that can communicate with each other, and the world around them, to make driving safer and more efficient.
We need a system that uses real-time data to optimize personal mobility on a massive scale, without trade-offs or compromises for individual travelers. A smart system that ties all modes of travel into a single network linking together public and personal transportation. Pedestrian walkways, bicycles, buses, planes, trains, automobiles – everything fully integrated and optimized to save time, conserve resources, and lower emissions.
No one company or industry alone will be able to develop the hardware and software that will be needed to create a sustainable transportation ecosystem. In addition to new technologies, new business models that bring together non-traditional partners will be needed. And we will need government and business to come together and focus on making appropriate policy changes.—Bill Ford
However, Ford noted, despite some progress in these areas, there is no single blueprint uniting the efforts; every municipality, every country is devising different solutions.
Many of these solutions are currently focused on regulation. We can’t operate this way. We need to work together to rethink how we prepare for and manage the future. We need to accelerate the work that’s underway. We need to adapt to changes in society and expand our collaboration.—Bill Ford
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). A period during which technologies that are already in some vehicles, will continue to improve.
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). A period during which the amount of data that will flow to, from and through cars will continue to increase.
The introduction of semi-autonomous driving technology including driver-initiated “auto pilot” capabilities and vehicle platooning in limited situations (earlier post)—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 maneuver 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
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.—Bill Ford
Long-Term (2025+). The urban transportation landscape will be radically different from what we know today.
A 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.
These are lofty goals – not impossible dreams. I am sharing them with you because we will need your help in making them a reality. The automobile has been a great device that has given individuals the freedom of mobility....But as the car’s popularity has grown, that individual freedom has become threatened. Now we have an opportunity to turn this challenge into a solution. To accomplish this, we have to change the way we think of our cars and the transportation that surrounds us.
We’ve tended to think of cars as independent, individual devices. Now is the time for us all to look at vehicles on the road the same way we look at smartphones, laptops and tablets as pieces of a much bigger, richer network. Right now, there are a billion vehicles—a billion computing devices—out there on our roads. They’re largely unconnected from one another and the network. They operate on more than a million lines of code and have more processing power than many of today’s laptops. They have a hundred times the sensory capacity of many Smartphones and yet all of that potential is essentially just sitting there.
...Whether you look at it as a business opportunity or as a human rights issue, how we move around our world in the future is one of the most compelling challenges we face. I believe our two industries are critical partners in achieving a future where transportation continues to represent freedom, power and economic growth. And we’ll get there if we work more closely than we ever have before.—Bill Ford
Bill Ford’s keynote at the 2012 Mobile World Congress was the first to be delivered at the leading annual international communications industry event by an automotive industry executive.