Within five to seven years, programs now under way at Ford Motor Co.’s European Research and Advanced Engineering Center should see vehicle-to-vehicle warning systems emerging and growing in capability.
The German R&AE Center, in Aachen, is also focusing on intelligent speed control features to facilitate a more integrated, cohesive, and safer transport environment for the world, with vehicles becoming rolling collections of sensors to reduce congestion, enhance accident prevention, and provide increased autopilot operation.
These developments are part of a future vision revealed by Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Co., speaking at the 2012 Mobile World Conference in Barcelona in late February. But he stressed that no one company or industry working alone would be able to solve the world’s mobility challenges. “The cooperation needed between the automotive and telecommunications industries will be greater than ever. We will need to develop new technologies as well as new ways of looking at the world.”
Spelling out the need to use R&AE work at its German facility and at the company’s technology centers around the world to avoid what he termed the threat of “global gridlock,” Ford said the number of cars on the planet’s roads is forecast to grow from a billion today to as many as 4 billion by mid-century. Much of this will be in developing countries, but the road situation in many developed countries is not likely to ease, and the need for smart solutions will increase.
What is needed, he said, is a global transportation network that uses communication between vehicles, transport infrastructure, and individual mobile devices. In a move toward this, Ford revealed Applink, which delivers voice control of smartphone apps from the driver’s seat. It is being introduced globally as part of the Sync voice control and in-car connectivity system.
Complementing its Blueprint for Sustainability program, Ford’s Blueprint for Mobility centers on cross-linking the automotive and telecommunications industries and indicates Ford’s (the man and the company) take on what transport will look like by 2025 and beyond.
“The telecommunications industry is critical in the creation of an interconnected transportation system where cars are intelligent and can talk to one another as well as the infrastructure around them," Ford stressed. "Now is the time for us all to be looking at vehicles on the road the same way we look at smartphones, laptops, and tablets—as pieces of a much bigger, richer network.”
He sees in the mid-term (2017 to 2025) the introduction of semi-autonomous driving technology including driver-initiated autopilot capabilities and vehicle platooning in “limited situations” together with the arrival of vehicle-to-cloud and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.
As for vehicle configurations, Ford believes there will be increasing options for one-, two-, or three-passenger seating to ease in-city maneuvering and access. Today, a Sao Paulo traffic jam commonly exceeds 100 miles, and in 2010, China saw what is believed to be the world’s longest period of deadlock: 11 days.