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Dramatic Global Gridlock Ahead

By Holly Reich, August 4th, 2012

This is hard to imagine, but it's predicted that the 1 billion cars on the road today could double -- or even quadruple -- by the 2050s. Ford Motor Company is preparing for the dramatic global transportation issues of the future with new technology, partnerships and blueprints for increased urban mobility.

Manufacturer photo: Ford Motor Company is researching and developing intelligent, next-generation driving technologies designed to help address traffic jams and other future mobility challenges that come with rapid urbanization and population growth around the world.
Manufacturer photo: Ford Motor Company is researching and developing intelligent, next-generation driving technologies designed to help address traffic jams and other future mobility challenges that come with rapid urbanization and population growth around the world.

During its workshop on Eco-Psychology and Urbanization, Ford presented a number of interesting trends. I selected some of the more interesting tidbits from a recent "Go Further with Ford" trend conference in Detroit:

-- According to KPMG's 2012 Global Automotive Executive Survey, intelligent mobility services (car sharing approaches), are considered a major global trend for the coming 10 to 15 years. The survey shows that by 2026 a quarter or more of urban inhabitants will favor carpooling over owning their wheels.

-- According to Zipcar, the world's largest car-sharing service, transportation comprises 19 percent of Americans' annual budgets. Obviously, this statistic can be reduced with car sharing. People are making choices to drive less, save money and reduce their carbon footprint.

-- People want to live closer to local transportation. Statistics show that people will pay more for a house in a similar neighborhood that has available transit.

Manufacturer photo: Ford Motor Company is researching and developing intelligent, next-generation driving technologies designed to help address traffic jams and other future mobility challenges that come with rapid urbanization and population growth around the world.

-- Among 25 to 34 year olds, 42 percent are more likely to live in a city center or urban environment than in the suburbs.

-- Over the last 30 years there has been a huge population shift to metro areas. Cities realize that a great part of their success is due to attracting college graduates and utilizing their talent. Cities like Brooklyn, Cleveland, Chicago, and Austin, are revitalizing their urban areas to create a friendlier environment for pedestrians and cycles. The "new city" blueprint is vibrant with entertainment, art, local foods and parks.

Ford recognizes that expanding into different markets is not about bulldozing through the systems. The automaker is approaching the globalization issue from several fronts.

"We need to think globally -- it's not just about building cars for the emerging markets. Each community has their own eco-system, so you have to understand the needs of the citizens, the culture and how we can be relevant," says Kristin Schondorf, Ford's future mobility project manager. "We want to be about mobility, which is accessibility for people, goods and services to go where they want safely, efficiently and affordably."

Ford's Blueprint for Mobility, a partnership with the telecommunications industry, is formed to create an interconnected transportation network to help improve global gridlock. Ford is looking to use the car as a rolling collection of sensors to help reduce congestion and prevent accidents.

One way of doing this is with Traffic Jam Assist, whereby the company is developing new technology that uses radar and cameras to improve vehicle flow by maintaining lane position. Traffic Jam Assist features automatic speed regulation supported by Ford's PowerShift transmission and adaptive cruise control, two technologies currently available on its vehicles.

As part of its mobility strategy, the automaker recently teamed up with Zipcar, to offer Ford vehicles for rent by the hour or day to residents or businesses looking for an alternative to the expense and hassle of owning a car, particularly in large urban areas. Ford has also partnered with Zipcar on more than 250 college campuses. Ford vehicles, primarily the fuel-efficient Ford Focus and the 2012 Ford Escape, started arriving on the campuses this summer.

By thinking globally about issues such traffic patterns, sustainability and the expansion of the urban environment, Ford is taking transportation far beyond the single vehicle.

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