From experimentation to implementation, that was the core message behind a keynote speech by Mark Fields the President and CEO of Ford. The catch phrase given to this philosophy is Ford Smart Mobility and it’s a concept that will drive the business not only today but well into the future. Chris Bowen was at the lavish “Further With Ford” event at Pier 27 in San Francisco, a city synonymous with technology.
Mr Fields states that owning an automobile is more than just a way to get from point A to point B, it’s about human progress and helps to make people’s lives better. Obviously we’ve come a long way since Henry Ford made an affordable car available to everyone, but even today the car is making lives better.
Today’s automotive industry faces distinct challenges according to Mr Fields. Ford has singled out the following four Mega Trends that include future urbanisation.
- Currently there are 28 mega cites with 10 million or more people. By 2030 it’s expected this will grow to 41, where do all the cars fit?
- The second is the rapid growth of the middle class especially in developing nations, they all want a car too.
- The subsequent poor air quality is another trend and finally;
- customers shifting priorities.
So you get the picture, the times are a changing.
Ford sees the huge opportunities at hand and the pace at which things are evolving. A learning process has been underway behind closed doors involving 25 global experiments and as Mr Fields puts it “we’ve learnt tons”.
Ford has played around with car sharing with its employees being used as Guinea pigs using apps to connect with each other. A program known as Parking Spotter uses existing sensors on cars to essentially act as probes to discover available parking spots and send that information to a cloud based system. In London this was leverage with an initiative called Painless Parking, much like the way Google maps gets information from user’s phones about traffic flow, the same applies to empty car spots. Some experiments are now entering the pilot stage, so rather than sit back Ford is doing something about what are endless opportunities to merge technology with what was once a purely industrial industry.
Ford has also been exploring flexible use in ownership or new ways for customers to own cars via increased car sharing, owning a share in a car or pay-as-you go options. These alternatives according to Ford’s research is seen by Gen Y and Z as a very practical way of saving money and a way of sharing goods and services that they like.
Another innovation is peer-to-peer car sharing where basically you rent your vehicles to others, bringing in a new revenue source. The program is known as Get Around and kicks off in the US from July 31st, a similar program in the UK begins in August. Personally no one will ever be driving my car, but in little old Sydney, old school thinking is still acceptable, I think.
Finally we heard about Ford’s plans to enhance Multimodal transport, in particular how its eBike concept can tie in with other forms of transport. The point being that for many, driving from home to work is either impractical, expensive or impossible. With the planet’s population set to explode from 7 to 9 billion people in 2050 and with 70 per cent of those living in cities, solutions need to be created. We covered the advent of the Ford eBike at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona recently with MoDe:Me for consumers and MoDe:Pro for couriers. Today the MoDe:Flex was announced which shares more in common with your day-to-day mountain bike, it can go most places but can be folded up and stored in any Ford vehicle with all the app driven wizardry in tow.
We live in very fascinating times, or as Ford boss Mark Fields put it “this is the most transformative time in our history”. Stay tuned for more updates from Further With Ford with Chris Bowen on the ground in San Francisco.
Chris travelled to San Francisco as a Guest of Ford