Innovation and technology are driving the future of personal mobility
Published: August 11, 2016
One way Ford is embracing the spirit of collaboration is Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit. Ford is one six major corporations backing the mentorship-driven accelerator program, which will foster emerging transportation startups that are working on innovative mobility solutions.
Since the introduction of the automobile more than a century ago, personal mobility has changed radically. Cars have become more affordable to more people, and the global transportation landscape has shifted to become increasingly connected, urban and crowded. In all this time, however, one thing has remained the same: Personal mobility is about much more than just moving from A to B. It’s about human progress, and giving individuals the freedom to choose how they move and improve their lives.
In 2012, Bill Ford introduced our Blueprint for Mobility, a vision for the future that provides solutions for short-, mid- and long-term mobility needs. It calls for private businesses, regulators, cities and countries to take action to address the transportation challenges ahead for a more sustainable and viable future.
Ford Smart Mobility, which Ford CEO and President, Mark Fields introduced earlier this year at CES, is our plan to use innovation to take Ford to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and big data. We want to test new ideas and address the growing transportation challenges around the world and have initiated a series of mobility experiments to test unconventional and breakthrough transportation ideas, to create better customer experiences and more flexible models for services like car-sharing. We also want to encourage social collaboration that will help to shape how the world moves.
In the early days of the automobile, Henry Ford helped put the world on wheels, making high-quality cars at an affordable price for the average worker. But today the solution to ensuring mobility for all isn’t as simple as putting more wheels on the road: About one billion cars are already in use, and some estimates expect that number to rise to four billion by 2050. This issue is especially acute in urban areas in countries like China and India, where traffic congestion is already a major concern and car ownership is becoming more attainable.
At Ford, we’re approaching mobility in the 21st century with four megatrends in mind: explosive population growth in urban areas, an expanding middle class, air quality and public health concerns, and changing customer attitudes and priorities.
These trends prescribe how we’re approaching the future of urban mobility. It’s an approach that recognizes that sometimes the solution may not be a private car but shared ownership models, ride sharing, or a multi-modal journey that requires a combination of different types of transportation. It also considers rural settings, where public and advanced transportation options are limited and basic services harder to attain. Greater integration between the technologies in automobiles, mobile devices and infrastructure will change how we interact with the services that move us from point A to point B.
Each city has its own unique set of challenges. Take Chongqing, for example. The enormous Chinese municipality is home to almost 30 million people in a geographically diverse setting, with transportation options ranging from a funicular railway to trains and buses. As part of our Innovate Mobility Challenge Series – a component of Ford Smart Mobility – we challenged developers to find a way to optimize the available mobility options in Chongqing. The winner created a platform that enabled users to find the most efficient route to their destination using multiple modes of transportation, which can help reduce congestion and pollution.
In India, monsoon season can cripple cities for weeks at a time, with flooded roads and railways making mobility frustrating, time-intensive and dangerous. The Monsoon App Downpour challenge asked developers to come up with ways to leverage software and data – both historical and real-time – to provide a tool that can help people navigate through monsoon storms. The winning app, Mumbai Monsoon Helper, allows users to plan routes that avoid the most water-soaked areas using information gathered via crowd-sourcing. No one can stop the rain, but we can find ways to work around it.
These are just a few examples. Ford has also spearheaded app competitions in North America, Europe, Africa and elsewhere in Asia Pacific, addressing issues like parking, increasing access to healthcare, and improving the delivery of services in rural and urban areas. A key component in our mobility strategy is getting people all over the world involved, and working with individuals, industry, academia and governments to find innovative solutions that meet the unique needs of different locations.
One way Ford is embracing the spirit of collaboration is Techstars Mobility, driven by Detroit. Ford is one six major corporations backing the mentorship-driven accelerator program, which will foster emerging transportation startups that are working on innovative mobility solutions. The 10 winners were selected from hundreds of applicants representing 42 countries on six continents, and will receive funding and business plan support to incubate their ideas, ranging from new lithium ion battery technology to a ride-sharing app to a Web browser that doesn’t require a data connection.
Ford is also leveraging university alliances to break new ground in transportation research. In China, Ford is partnering with Chongqing University and the Chongqing Engineering Research Center of Intelligent Transportation Systems to develop a more accurate and predictive model for bus arrival and departure times. The project will use data collected from 8,900 buses on 520 daily bus routes to help reduce total travel time and energy consumption, and will empower individuals to make more informed decisions with better information about wait times.
From the very beginning, innovation has been integral to every part of Ford’s business. In the world with 28 megacities of over 10 million people – a number expected to jump to 41 by 2030 – rethinking how we all interact with the transportation options around us is crucial for creating more efficient and sustainable cities. At Ford, this means thinking beyond the car and engaging with other organizations to create a better world where personal mobility is more convenient, efficient and attainable for all.
Erica Klampfl is Ford’s Global Future Mobility Manager, defining Ford’s near, mid, and long-term mobility strategy to make mobility affordable economically, environmentally and socially. Previously, she led the Strategy and Sustainability Analytics group at Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.