Bill Ford.

Bill Ford.

BARCELONA, SPAIN – Ford Motor Co.'s Executive Chairman Bill Ford outlined a plan for connected cars that is designed to avoid the consequences of widespread gridlock as the number of on-road vehicles grows. Ford delivered his keynote address at the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where he told delegates that the number of cars on the world’s roads is forecast to grow from 1 billion to 4 billion by 2050.

“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 in a preview of Ford Motor Company’s “Blueprint for Mobility.” “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.”

Bill Ford outlined the company’s vision for combating gridlock in the near- and long-term through a range of new vehicle technologies. In the near-term (5 to 7 years), Ford expects to build on its vehicle existing features, such as Active Park Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Active City Stop. In addition, Ford cited its collaboration with ZipCar as aiding in the development of new vehicle ownership models (which public-sector fleets are taking advantage of, for example the cities of Chicago and Boston).

In the mid-term, from 2017 to 2025, Ford sees the introduction of semi-autonomous driving technologies, such as “auto pilot” capabilities and limited types of vehicle platooning. Other technologies will involve more vehicle-to-vehicle interactions to reduce accidents. Also, vehicle-to-cloud and vehicle-to infrastructure communication will enable alternative transportation options. 

Another change Ford sees in the mid-term is additional “city vehicle” (one, two, and three-passenger vehicles) options. He also said an “integrated transportation network” will emerge.

“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.

In the long-term, after 2025, Ford said he sees a very different transportation landscape, where pedestrian, bicycle, private car, commercial and public transportation traffic is integrated into a single network. Also, Ford said fully autonomous vehicle technology will emerge, with better “auto pilot” operating durations and autonomous valet functions.

This talk at the Mobile World Congress follow’s Bill Ford’s original presentation on this subject during the TED conference in 2011.