REINVENTING THE WHEEL
How will driving work when we might not be doing much of it at all?
I’m standing in the parking lot of Ford’s sparkling new glass and concrete R&D centre in Silicon Valley, ready to witness the future of automotive technology here in the global epicentre of “technovation.” The engineers, however, are really excited about bikes. Under the bright California sun, a group of Ford’s top high-tech developers are rattling off the features of three new folding-bicycle models. Not-so-catchily dubbed “multimodal urban mobility solutions,” these bikes are designed to link seamlessly with a smartphone or smartwatch. The bikes feature handlebars that vibrate when your device’s GPS anticipates a turn, lights that flash when a vehicle approaches from behind and the ability to anticipate when you’re working up a sweat: The battery power kicks in to whisk you to the office dry and fresh.
As an urban cyclist as well as a driver, I immediately want one. Unfortunately, I won’t get to experience the bikes first-hand anytime soon—they’re just concepts with no scheduled release date. They are, however, only one example of Ford’s prodigious efforts to address the needs of a driver of the future. The company is also hard at work on technologies like app-based peer-to-peer car sharing, a cloud-based parking spotter—which allows cars to share data on available parking spots—and a collaboration with Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a self-driving Fusion model, currently in the development stage, that’s equipped with 3-D mapping.
Self-driving technology, the automotive revolution on everyone’s mind, has already arrived in various stages of readiness. Last spring, Mercedes-benz unveiled the gleaming new autonomous F 015 concept, outfitted in soft white leather and 4K touchscreens, which could be whizzing silently down our streets in as little as 15 years. Tesla plans to launch its first