Test Drive

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Mobility Trends

By Helmut Dostal

Mark Fields, president of the Ford Motor Company, has suggestedhf_ford2a that our times are the most transformative period in history. He was speaking at the “Further with Ford 2015” technology conference in Silicon Valley on the future of transportation.

My takeaway from this thought-provoking two-day conference was a reminder that while the business of personal transportation has, in principle, been unchanged for the past 100 years, it’s about to go through a significant transformation that will revolve around connectivity.

Worldwide, there are about one billion vehicles on the roads today, and this number is expected to double by 2050. Two-thirds of the world’s growing population will live in urban areas. Clearly, new mobility solutions must be found

hf_ford6Into the future
In early 2015, Ford launched a series of global mobility experiments, researching the impact of urbanization on quality of life and the environment. For example, Ford’s Traffic Spotter is testing a cloud-based system of identifying available parking spaces in Los Angeles, where a whopping 30 per cent of traffic activity is the result of people looking for parking. Self-driving cars that find their parking spot and return to the owner on command via smartphone are already in place today.

In another area, Ford is working with the University of Michigan in hf_ford2testing semi- and fully autonomous vehicles that employ advanced algorithms to predict the movements of vehicles and pedestrians within the car’s environment. When considering countries like India, where about half a million people die in road crashes every year, the development of safe technologies takes on a whole new dimension.

What’s in it for you?
As much as new technologies are designed to increase safety, comfort and efficiency for consumers, we should not forget the efforts auto companies are making to reduce their carbon footprint. Most visible are their constant efforts to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. But more groundbreaking are the developments of hybrid technologies and fully electric propulsion.

The new Generation Z, who were born from 1997 on—a group that’s approximately two billion strong today—is growing up ‘connected’ and with a new attitude toward car ownership and ride sharing. They’ll have a thirst for alternative methods of transportation and connectivity.

Simply put, with Z on our heels, we’ll be going a whole lot further in a very short period of time … and having a lot more fun doing it if Mr. Fields has his way.

This post is the result of information gathered at the “Further with Ford 2015” conference held in Silicon Valley, which I attended as a guest of the Ford Motor Company. I have not received any compensation for this post and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.