The fu­ture of Ford: Con­nect­ing cars, bikes and stop­lights

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - JC REINDL

LAS VE­GAS — Ford CEO Jim Hack­ett of­fered an am­bi­tious vi­sion for the au­tomaker’s au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle busi­ness strat­egy at the CES tech con­fer­ence here, de­pict­ing a fu­ture that will be as much as about net­works of cars and traf­fic sig­nals as any par­tic­u­lar model of self-driv­ing ve­hi­cle.

Ford will build these net­worked sys­tems, he said, as well as the ve­hi­cles on the streets of this “City of To­mor­row.”

“The car and the sys­tem will be talk­ing to each other,” Hack­ett told an au­di­ence of hun­dreds of trade in­dus­try folks in a Las Ve­gas ho­tel ball­room. “The car, ob­vi­ously, is go­ing to learn to drive it­self, but the city’s trans­porta­tion grid will mu­tate around what the cars need.”

He shared the stage with a se­ries of Ford ex­ec­u­tives, who an­nounced the au­tomaker is work­ing with a Sil­i­con Val­ley startup, Au­to­nomic, to de­velop an in­for­ma­tion-shar­ing plat­form — the Trans­porta­tion Mo­bil­ity Cloud — that will en­able ve­hi­cles, bi­cy­cles and mass tran­sit to com­mu­ni­cate.

The ve­hi­cles and bikes — even city stop­lights and signs — will all com­mu­ni­cate with each other through a sys­tem that Ford calls “Cel­lu­lar Ve­hi­cle-to-Ev­ery­thing.” Ford is work­ing with chip­maker Qual­comm to pro­duce the sys­tem, which would even­tu­ally run at fast 5G cel­lu­lar speeds, the next gen­er­a­tion af­ter to­day’s 4G or LTE.

Ford also an­nounced it has inked a part­ner­ship with de­liv­ery ser­vice Post­mates to be­gin pi­lot pro­grams that will ex­plore how self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles can be used for mak­ing quicker and more con­ve­nient de­liv­er­ies of gro­ceries, food or re­tail goods.

“If we move quickly and dra­mat­i­cally shift our think­ing,” Hack­ett said, “we can re­design trans­porta­tion in our cities in ways that not only meet the grow­ing de­mand, but im­prove the qual­ity of life for ev­ery­one at the same time. It’s not a dream.”

With nearly 300,000 square feet of auto ex­hibit space, this year’s CES, for­merly called the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show, was con­sid­ered the fifth-largest auto show in the coun­try. Car com­pa­nies and sup­pli­ers of­ten use CES to show­case their lat­est tech­nol­ogy.

Hack­ett ini­tially sat alone on the event stage, fac­ing the au­di­ence while a com­puter ren­der­ing of a city un­folded be­hind him on gi­ant screens. The city grad­u­ally ex­panded from a sim­ple grey out­line to a colour­ful panorama of build­ings, peo­ple, ve­hi­cles and store­fronts.

Ford has yet to say what city it will test its con­cepts in.


Jenny Fouracre puts pizza boxes into Ford’s self-driv­ing de­liv­ery ve­hi­cle at the CES tech­nol­ogy show in Las Ve­gas.

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