Ford is taking a joined-up approach to examining the issues of future individual mobility, assessing the benefits of active safety and fully autonomous driving systems and understanding how systems can work together for the greater good.
At the 2015 International CES where the company’s CEO Mark Fields gave a keynote address, rather than simply promoting its latest in-car technology, Fields talked about innovation with a higher purpose and detailed 25 different global mobility experiments the company is currently undertaking to understand what the transport ecosystem of tomorrow will look like.
“Even as we showcase connected cars and share our plans for autonomous vehicles, we are here at CES with a higher purpose,” said Ford President and CEO Mark Fields. “We are driving innovation in every part of our business to be both a product and mobility company — and, ultimately, to change the way the world moves just as our founder Henry Ford did 111 years ago.”
Under the unifying banner of Ford Smart Mobility, the experiments — eight in North America, nine in Europe and Africa, seven in Asia and one in South America — are attempting to understand four global mega-trends: exploding population growth; an expanding middle-class; air quality and public health concerns; and changing consumer priorities in terms of urban living and mobility.
“We see a world where vehicles talk to one another, drivers and vehicles communicate with the city infrastructure to relieve congestion, and people routinely share vehicles or multiple forms of transportation for their daily commute,” Fields said. “The experiments we’re undertaking today will lead to an all-new model of transportation and mobility within the next 10 years and beyond.”
In 11 of the experiments, Ford invited developers and innovators from around the world to try and solve a specific mobility problem; for example, identifying available parking spaces in city centres or the use of navigation systems to help people gain healthcare access in remote regions.
As for self-driving cars, Ford confirmed that it is taking the concept very seriously with the ultimate aim of bringing an autonomous car to market that is affordable: “Our priority is not in making marketing claims or being in a race for the first autonomous car on the road,” Fields said. “Our priority is in making the first Ford autonomous vehicle accessible to the masses and truly enhancing customers’ lives.
Ford has a fully autonomous research vehicle that is currently being put through testing which, according to the company’s chief technical officer and group vice president, Global Product Development, Raj Nair, builds on technologies already available on Ford’s latest cars, such as pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control.
“We’re already manufacturing and selling semi-autonomous vehicles that use software and sensors to steer into both parallel and perpendicular parking spaces, adjust speed based on traffic flow or apply the brakes in an emergency,” Nair said. “There will be a Ford autonomous vehicle in the future, and we take putting one on the road very seriously.”
Image: Ford CEO Mark Fields. Credit: AFP-Relaxnews