By on February 27, 2012

We didn’t get to go to the World Mobile Congress in beautiful Barcelona, Spain, but it may have been nice to catch both the unveiling of the Ford B-Max and a keynote speech given by Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. Ford (the man, not the company) outlined an overarching vision for helping manage the estimated 2 billion cars that will be on the road by 2050.

Dubbed the “Blueprint for Mobility”, Ford’s idea takes the notion of in-car connectivity beyond using it just for playing music or getting directions. Ford’s plan seeks an integrated plan to manage traffic using “connected cars”

The telecommunications industry is critical in the creation of an inter-connected transportation system where cars are intelligent and can talk to one another as well as the infrastructure around them. 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.

In the short term, Ford is hoping to take a leading role in both car sharing services like ZipCar, as well as mobile phone integration, with a new program called AppLink being integrated into the company’s SYNC system. The end goal will include vehicle-to-vehicle integration over WiFi spectrum, single seat or two seat commuter vehicles and eventually, autonomous vehicles. Long term, Ford is looking at how to manage traffic in terms of motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians. Gridlock is already a major problem in many countries, and with 60 percent of the world’s population expected to live in urban areas in the future, congestion will not only be a major annoyance, but it will have an undoubted impact on car sales as public transportation, cycling or walking becomes a more desirable method of transportation.

Check out Ford’s official press release below;

  • Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford outlines vision for smart transportation and need for development of intelligent vehicles and transport systems at Mobile World Congress
  • Ford Motor Company’s “Blueprint for Mobility” calls for partnership with telecommunications industry to create an inter-connected transportation network as part of the solution for alleviating “global gridlock”
  • Ford envisions a radically different transportation landscape where pedestrian, bicycle, private car, commercial and public transportation traffic are woven into a connected network to save time, conserve resources, lower emissions and improve safety
  • Ford is already developing new business models and partnerships in anticipation of personal vehicle ownership in cities becoming increasingly impractical
  • Ford announces AppLink smart phone app voice-control system to go global

During his keynote address at the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Ford told delegates that the number of cars on the world’s roads is forecast to grow from 1 billion now to up to 4 billion by mid-century.

BARCELONA, Spain, Feb. 27, 2012 – Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford has outlined a plan for connected cars to help avoid a potential future of crippling congestion.

And he proposed that one way of avoiding the potentially global problem of an overcrowded road network is to create a global transportation network that utilizes communication between vehicles, transport infrastructure and individual mobile devices.

“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,” he added.

“No one company or industry will be able to solve the mobility issue alone and the speed at which solutions take hold will be determined largely by customer acceptance of new technologies. The telecommunications industry is critical in the creation of an inter-connected transportation system where cars are intelligent and can talk to one another as well as the infrastructure around them. 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.”

Addressing Mobile World Congress delegates earlier in the day Ford Motor Company also took the opportunity to announce that AppLink, a feature which delivers voice control of smart phone apps from the driver’s seat, is being introduced globally as part of the SYNC voice-control and in-car connectivity system.

In the spirit of cooperation outlined in the keynote address, Ford plans to work closely with app developers around the world to provide the best services for Ford customers through AppLink.

“Blueprint for Mobility” adapts to a changing transport landscape

The company’s “Blueprint for Mobility” will seek solutions for a problem that is already becoming a reality in expanding vehicle markets around the world. In Sao Paulo, traffic jams regularly exceed 100 miles and the average commute lasts between 2 and 3 hours a day. Despite this, car buying is growing at a rate of 7.5 percent annually. In China, the world’s longest period of gridlock was registered at 11 days during 2010.

The problem is not restricted to emerging markets, either. For example, it is estimated that the cost of congestion to the economy in England through lost time will rise to around $35 billion (€26 billion) annually by 2025. In Germany, sustaining a town of 300,000 people is estimated to require 1,000 truck deliveries daily.

Solving the issue of urban mobility is a huge challenge that will only be successful if government collaboration, infrastructure development and industry come together globally.

During his keynote address, Ford focused on the opportunities and challenges presented by expanding communication networks and increasing global demand for personal mobility and commercial transportation as he outlined his vision for a future transport network integrated with mobile communications.

And as with the company’s “Blueprint for Sustainability,” which set near, mid- and long-term goals for significant reductions in the company’s global environmental footprint, the “Blueprint for Mobility” defines the start of Ford’s thinking on what transportation will look like in 2025 and beyond, and the technologies, business models and partnerships needed to get there, including;

Near-Term (5-7 years)

  • Ford Motor Company to be at the forefront of developing increasingly intuitive in-car mobile communications options and driver interfaces that proactively alert drivers to traffic jams and accidents
  • Developmental projects such as the vehicle-to-vehicle warning systems currently being explored at Ford’s European Research and Advanced Engineering Centre, in Aachen, Germany, and intelligent speed control features to grow in capability
  • The delivery of a better-connected, safer and more efficient driving experience with limited autonomous functions for parking and driving in slow-moving traffic – building on existing Ford features including Active Park Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and Active City Stop
  • Further development and defining of new vehicle ownership models, as already demonstrated through the Ford collaboration with Zipcar, the world’s largest car sharing and car club service

Mid-Term (2017 – 2025)

  • The introduction of semi-autonomous driving technology including driver-initiated “auto pilot” capabilities and vehicle platooning in limited situations – technologies that will provide improved safety and driver assistance features, but allow the driver to take control, if needed
  • Significantly more interaction between individual cars on the road through utilization of  ever-increasing computing power and numbers of sensors in vehicles, helping reduce the number of accidents at intersections and enabling limited semi-autonomous and autonomous highway lane changing and exiting
  • The arrival of vehicle-to-cloud and vehicle-to infrastructure communication that contribute to greater time and energy efficiency by enabling vehicles to recommend alternative transport options when congestion is unavoidable and to pre-reserve parking at destinations
  • The emergence of an integrated transport network, featuring cars plugged into public databases
  • New city vehicle options as more and more 1, 2 and 3-passenger vehicles are introduced to help manoeuver city streets

“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.

“We’ll increasingly take advantage of the car as a rolling collection of sensors to reduce congestion and help prevent accidents. I’m confident that we will see many of these advances on the road in this mid-term period because the early versions are already being designed, and in most cases, tested.”

Long-Term (2025+)

  • A radically different transportation landscape where pedestrian, bicycle, private car, commercial and public transportation traffic will be woven into a single connected network to save time, conserve resources, lower emissions and improve safety
  • Arrival of smart vehicles capable of fully autonomous navigation, with increased “auto pilot” operating duration, plus the arrival of autonomous valet functions, delivering effortless vehicle parking and storage
  • Development of a true network of mobility solutions, with personal vehicle ownership complimented by greater use of connected and efficient shared services, and completely new business models contributing to improved personal mobility

Bill Ford’s keynote at the 2012 Mobile World Congress was the first ever to be delivered at the leading annual communications industry event by an automotive industry executive, and followed his address at the TED 2011 conference in Long Beach, Calif.

Ford at 2012 Mobile World Congress

# # #

About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 164,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit

Ford of Europe is responsible for producing, selling and servicing Ford brand vehicles in 51 individual markets and employs approximately 66,000 employees. In addition to Ford Motor Credit Company, Ford of Europe operations include Ford Customer Service Division and 22 manufacturing facilities, including joint ventures. The first Ford cars were shipped to Europe in 1903 – the same year Ford Motor Company was founded. European production started in 1911.

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15 Comments on “Bill Ford’s “Blueprint For Mobility” Calls For Cars, Bicycles, Pedestrians In Integrated Network...”

  • avatar

    Sounds like Minority Report doesn’t it?

    The big problem with all these futuristic scenarios like the City of Tomorrows or Futuramas is that there’s never any room for the legacy objects. On an intelligent hwy what will happen to that 57 Buick or 68 Mustang or 2011 WRX? Will these things be allowed only on certain roads? Will the public accept that with the infrastucture presumably being built with tax dollars?

    And what happens if this is only an urban dream. Will there have to be a two tiered vehicle system? One for intelligent urban hwys and something more primitive to deal with the Montanas and Dakotas of the world? Love to deal with the issue of self driving cars that lose control in Death Valley because you wanted to drive from LA to Vegas.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, presumably there would be have to be a series of gradual changes to the infrastructure over time. I mean, you can’t buy leaded gasoline for that ’57 Buick today, but the switch-over for that was gradual enough that it didn’t leave the general public out in the cold.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m surprised the 1%er didn’t advocate implants for people with a USB port under our left ear.

      Screw Google and screw Ford (the man, not the company).

  • avatar

    Back to the future:

    (It would seem that the fourteen-lane, 100 mph interstate thing didn’t work out.)

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    This very much seems like doing things the hard way . . . that is, moving a lot of meat and metal around. One thing that is pretty clear — “new urbanists” to the contrary — is that, given a choice, most people prefer a “suburban” environment. The principal function of the telecom revolution is to make physical distance irrelevant. I can have a “facetime” conversation with my Norwegian nephew in his mountain cottage outside of Oslo while I am sitting in my home office. There is no need to spend the enormous amounts of time and money required to bring us together physically. There are a number of videoconferencing products that simulate, visually, the presence of all of the participants in a conference room . . . in real time. All it takes is bandwidth and processing power, both of which are cheap.

    So-called “e-commerce” is taking an increasingly large bite out of bricks-and-mortar stores.

    So, my point is, the daily throb of people commuting from their homes to their offices and back is going to be a thing of the past. It sucks up huge amounts of time, it’s expensive, etc.

    So, I don’t think Mr. Ford’s future will ever happen. Rather, stuff that we need will be brought to us by delivery trucks; and most of us will do our work from a home office. Cars will be used occasionally, and often for recreational purposes — as they were in the beginning. Where car travel makes economic sense (for moderate distances in areas not dense enough to economically support an expensive rail network), people will use cars for travel. For longer distance, they will some some faster means, with a rental car at the other end, if necessary.

    If you don’t believe that, look at the price premium people will pay to live close to work . . . just to avoid the time associated with the daily commute.

    Moving people physically from their homes to their offices every day . . . just so they can sit in front of a computer and yap on the phone. . . is completely stupid and wasteful.

    And Mr. Ford’s ideas are just kludges to try and keep a rapidly obsoleting technology alive.

    If I’m wrong about people wanting to live in a suburban environment . . . if central Manhattan is everyone’s idea of nirvana . . . they’re still not going to use private cars. No one in his right mind owns a car who lives in Manhattan. It’s useless. Take the subway, or the bus, or a cab or a limo. If you want to get out of town, take the train or fly.

    In my view, 30 years from now people will be using cars far less to get to work, because “work” will be at home. Shopping will be on-line, because — as people already have figured out — the online market is much bigger (and therefore more efficient) than a local market. And for that work which requires handling physical things . . . like manufacturing . . . note that has already moved out of the cities to suburban locations that are low density and low cost. All that’s needed is good railroad access for shipping products out and components in.

    • 0 avatar

      I cannot fathom a job that doesn’t require in person analysis, i.e. failure analysis, man/material/machine/environment interaction. And I would never want a job that doesn’t require that.

      Manufacturing will always require intelligent in person analysis and physical interaction.

      Product development is also difficult to execute without a think tank. Without human interaction, development is less efficient. Product development also requires hands on testing.

      Service industries require face to face interaction. Unless schools become electronic, all food is delivered, and beauticians/dentists/doctors make house visits. It makes sense to have some of these services centralized.

      If the majority of the United States’ work force has jobs that do not require hands on interaction, we have a lot more to worry about than our mode of transportation. I’m a early gen Y’er and it worries me seeing some of the younger generation’s lack of social skills. One day I will have to effectively communicate with these people to get a job done. And it will suck hard.

      • 0 avatar

        I disagree that design is less efficient if you work remotely. Collaboration over the internet isn’t a problem, parts are easily summoned via the internet and UPS. If I want uninterrupted silence to work, I’ve got it. Testing prototypes isn’t a problem because I have the facilities to build and test them locally. Anything I don’t have (which is rare) I make an off-hour commute into Boston.

        Many jobs that currently require a physical presence today could be accomplished via tele-presence robotics. Using your hairstylist example, a stylist could connect into a general purpose telepresence robot and cut your hair at home. Later, that same robot could be connected into by a professional chef that could prepare dinner for you with ingredients delivered by a service like PeaPod.

        Telepresence technology is here now (predator drones, DaVinci robotic surgery etc.) and will be much cheaper than anything Bill Ford is talking about.

      • 0 avatar

        I remember when I was young and I heard how robots would replace workers in assembly operations. Well here I am, 20 years later, and I see a lot of manual assembly processes all around me. Telepresence would be decades out. There is way too much variability to pull off a lot of automated operations. And we’re still a long ways away from traditional overhead (facilities + transportation) being more expensive than personal 6 axis robotics in each house hold.

        As for your comment about design being more efficient over the web, you must work for a slow paced industry without traditional management, your design work is small scale, or you live in a utopian society. That or you have a dyno lab next to your house, a full blown machine shop down the street and a 3,000 sq ft warehouse as a garage. I have a close acquaintance who designs complex (small) robotics in Boston, and his company thrives on the environment they have in their headquarters. It’s a facility that workers look forward to going to work in the morning. A big part of Lean is culture. Culture cannot be controlled in your living room with your cat. Not to mention, these designers also facilitate their manufacturing arm as well, so frequent travel overseas is required.

        We have many personnel that do telecommuting from home. Their work load is insignificant and they do piece meal projects that someone else usually has to implement. They’re also contract so when their work is no longer needed, they need to find another budget ledger to attach themselves to. So with respect to accounting practices, they are extremely efficient. I also work in a archaic company with old school managers that have barely adopted PC’s and office politics is a way of life.

        In order for telecommuting to catch on, culture has to change. And that culture also has to overcome the division between the design and manufacturing arm. As a manufacturing employee, I already have a bit of contempt for the design group. If I had to stay at a plant to put out design related fires while they called in from their living room with a robot, it wouldn’t be a pretty scenario.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with all your premises except one…you’d be amazed at the number of Manhattanites who own cars, mainly to…well, escape Manhattan. Or for work. Yes, they don’t drive to the corner store but the point is that car ownership is aspirational, even in NYC. And they’re not all rich, either.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. Reality will leap-frog Ford’s ideas. He is so hell-bent on making the car a communication device that he has let it distort his concept of the future. (I.e., this is the future he wants, not what I believe data/trends actually support will happen.)

      Boeing said the future of airplanes is teleconferencing. Just about every desk job can be done remotely much of the time. Just look at how much time people spend online now–we are already well on our way of staying home and shopping, researching, socializing, and working without physical travel.

      Another factor he ignores is that of localizing. The new urban development trend is bringing more people back into close range of what they need – housing, shopping, employment, entertainment, etc all in one location so that you don’t need to travel far if you do travel at all. IMO, this one factor, if implemented widely, will have more of an effect on cars, fuel consumption, and the lives of people than any high-tech gadgets/systems Ford produces. E.g., I live 6 mi from work, and that’s the farthest I typically have to go. Everything I need, from stores, restaurants, entertainment, friends, etc., is within a mile or two of my home. With short drives, there’s no need for connectiveness while driving; the cost of autonomous cars isn’t worth it for such short trips & little use.

      As more people around the world want/get stuff, and since stuff is in limited supply, there’s less for everyone else. Thus, I believe a better paradigm for the future is getting more out of less – productivity, efficiency, elimination of waste & non-value adding activities (like commutes), sharing/collaborating, etc.

  • avatar

    Back to the present. Ford, you need to figure out why not a single vehicle manufactured by Ford made the Consumer Reports best road score list released today.

  • avatar

    I find this sort of thing very depressing. I grew up crossing the country by car, awestruck by the vast open spaces, the Rockies, etc., and while I see the logic of networking cars (though I’m not sure it would work), I prefer a country where the population isn’t so dense that anything like this is needed. A networked population of cars takes the adventure and romance out of driving.

    @DC Bruce: there’s no substitute for actually being with people. I do work out of my house, and I have for probably 3/4 of my working life, and even though I do a lot of talking on the phone, to interesting people, I find I often have to go to a coffee house just to see other people.

  • avatar

    Dear Mr. Ford,

    You have always been a leader within the company with your family name on it since birth. It is a big operation. Growing up in it has given you an unusual perspective on how to make big organizations function. Your perspective is honest, interesting and appreciated.

    So, naturally, you see me getting into my car and driving to work in a similarly big fashion. You see me entering the expressway, driving through the grids of my downtown, and going to the same destination every day of the week for the past 15 years. So, to you, you see predictability, connectivity and repetition within a tranportation network needing some kind of managerial skill if our goal is to get everyone to whereever they need to go without waste.

    Now, reality. We are not things. Within every single motion device is a human being with a mind. We are not machines. We cannot be manipulated like loose marbles just needing a ramp to guide us. Sometimes thinking big is as fantastical as a Greek myth. While your blueprint makes sense on a blueprint, people aren’t blueprintable in the big picture.

    Worse, to attempt your blueprint strips us of what we are. In order to fit your plan, I must lose myself. I must be willing to be seen as a digital bit. I won’t do that. That is more inhuman, insensitive and as harmful as the problems you see your plan resolving. Imagine how horrible this world will become if your plan is successful. Sure – we may get to where you think we should be everyday, and do so without damaging the Earth, but at what human cost? I am not how I am propelled.

    Chaos is good. Embrace it.

    And you are a Ford. Please remember that.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    That B Max thing is pretty homely. Please say it’s for the Chinese market. How can Bill Ford stand next to that thing and think “this is my company’s best styling effort?” Yo Bill – it’s really really really really bad.

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