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CES 2015: Ford plans to move the world

At the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 held in Las Vegas last week, Ford revealed its approach to creating not only advanced new vehicles, “but also to help change the way the world moves by solving today’s growing global transportation challenges”.

The company announced its Ford Smart Mobility plan to use innovation to take it to the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data. Ford also announced 25 mobility experiments around the world this year to test breakthrough transportation ideas to create better customer experiences, more flexible user-ship models and social collaboration that can reward customers.

“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.”

Ford demonstrated SYNC 3 at the show, its most advanced vehicle connectivity system, while highlighting semi-autonomous vehicles the company has on the road today and fully autonomous vehicles now in development.

The first steps for Ford Smart Mobility are 25 experiments – eight in North America, nine in Europe and Africa, seven in Asia and one in South America. Each experiment is designed to anticipate what customers will want and need in tomorrow’s transportation ecosystem.

“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.”

Addressing global megatrends
The 25 experiments address four global megatrends – explosive population growth, an expanding middle class, air quality and public health concerns, and changing customer attitudes and priorities – challenging today’s transportation model and limiting personal mobility, especially in urban areas.

Fourteen of the 25 experiments are Ford-led research projects, and 11 are part of the company’s Innovate Mobility Challenge Series. The experiments include:

  • Big Data Drive: Dearborn, Michigan 
  • Fleet Insights: United States 
  • Data Driven Insurance: London 
  • Remote Repositioning: Atlanta City 
  • Driving On-Demand: London 
  • Dynamic Social Shuttle: New York, London 
  • Car Swap: Dearborn, Michigan 
  • Ford Carsharing: Germany 
  • Share-Car: Bangalore, India 
  • Rapid Recharge & Share: Dearborn, Michigan 
  • Data Driven Healthcare: The Gambia, West Africa 
  • Parking Spotter: Atlanta 
  • Info Cycle: Palo Alto, California 
  • Painless Parking: London

With the Innovate Mobility Challenge Series, Ford invited innovators and developers around the world to create solutions for specific mobility challenges in North America and South America, Portugal, Africa, India, China, England and Australia.

Challenges included finding technology solutions to identify open parking spaces in urban areas, better ways to navigate crowded cities and the use of navigation and other tools to help people gain access to medical care in remote areas.

Ford’s new vehicle connectivity system
SYNC 3 is the company’s new communications and entertainment system that is faster, more intuitive and easier to use, with enhanced response to driver commands.

SYNC 3’s more conversational speech recognition technology, a more smartphone-like touch screen and easy-to-read graphics will help millions of drivers connect with their lives and control their smartphone while on the road.

The next-generation system builds on the capability of SYNC technology already in more than 10 million vehicles on the road globally. The roll out of SYNC 3 in new vehicles begins this year.

“Ford is delivering an easier way for customers to stay connected,” said Raj Nair, Ford chief technical officer and group vice president for global product development. “SYNC 3 is another step forward in delivering connectivity features customers most want, and they tell us this kind of technology is an important part of their decision to buy our vehicles.”

Ford autonomous vehicles
Ford also highlighted the semi-autonomous vehicles it has on the road today and fully autonomous vehicles now in development for the future.

“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.”

Ford’s semi-autonomous vehicle features available today include lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection and active park assist – with traffic jam assist coming.

A fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicle is undergoing road testing. The vehicle uses the same semi-autonomous technology in Ford vehicles today, while adding four LiDAR sensors to generate a real-time 3D map of the surrounding environment.

The vehicle can sense objects around it using the LiDAR sensors, and uses advanced algorithms to help it learn to predict where vehicles and pedestrians might move.

“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.

“Henry Ford taught us long ago that a good business makes excellent products and earns a healthy return,” Fields added. “A great business does all that while creating a better world. That is what continues to drive us each day.”

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA.

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