In light of forecasts for the number of cars on the world’s roads to grow from 1 billion now to up to 4 billion by mid-century, at the recent Mobile World Congress at Barcelona Ford's Executive Chairman Bill Ford presented his company's plan for connected cars, termed “Blueprint for Mobility” in which he proposed a global transportation network that utilizes communication between vehicles, transport infrastructure and individual mobile devices.
“If we do nothing, we face the prospect of ‘global gridlock’, a never-ending traffic jam that wastes time, energy and resources and even compromises the flow of commerce and healthcare,” said Ford. “The cooperation needed between the automotive and telecommunications industries will be greater than ever as we prepare for and manage the future. We will need to develop new technologies, as well as new ways of looking at the world,” he added.
Ford announced AppLink - an app store for its Sync in-car connectivity system
At Mobile World Congress Ford Motor Company announced AppLink, a feature which delivers voice control of smart phone apps, introduced globally as part of the SYNC voice-control and in-car connectivity system. Ford plans to work with app developers around the world to provide services for Ford customers through AppLink.
Ford's Managing Director of the Ford Research Center Aachen Pim van der Jagt was interviewed on a panel at Mobile world Congress during which he stated that Ford's App Link will be available in Europea later this year, in itsEcoSport vehicles, and all vehicles in future, and that Ford particularly sees the connected vehicle as a way to attract younger owners to their brand, but not necessary to own but also share ownership.
“Blueprint for Mobility” a twenty five plus year view of transport landscape
Ford's “Blueprint for Mobility” intends to head off a potential future that could result form expanding vehicle markets around the world. In Sao Paulo, traffic jams 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.
Accordin to Ford, solving the issue of urban mobility is a huge challenge that will only be successful if government collaboration, infrastructure development and industry come together globally.
Mid- and long-term goals for reductions in the Ford's environmental footprint
During his keynote, Ford focused on the opportunities and challenges presented by expanding communication networks and set near, mid- and long-term goals for significant reductions in the company’s global environmental footprint.
For the near-Term Ford is developing in-car mobile communications options and driver interfaces that proactively alert drivers to traffic jams and accidents; 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; driving experience with limited autonomous functions for parking and driving in slow-moving traffic; new vehicle ownership models.
For the Mid-Term Ford envisions the introduction of semi-autonomous driving technology; more interaction between individual cars on the road; vehicles than can recommend alternative transport options; the emergence of an integrated transport network, featuring cars plugged into public databases; new city vehicle options.
For the Long-Term Ford expect a radically different 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; rrival of smart vehicles capable of fully autonomous navigation; personal vehicle ownership complimented by greater use of connected and efficient shared services, and new business models contributing to improved personal mobility.
Cars an untapped opportunity
With his audience in mind Ford apeared to suggest that more investment should come form telecoms operators tempting them with a market oppoortunity. “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", Ford said.
“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's speech does not appear to be available on the Mobile world Congress site but follows on from his address at the TED 2011 conference in Long Beach, Calif.