If you had to predict the future of transportation, what would you need? A lot of data, and a lot of help from entrepreneurs. That’s how Ford is approaching the problem, kicking off 2015 with 25 experiments around the globe designed to gather data and test new ideas.
“We see a world where vehicles talk to one another, drivers and vehicles communicate with the city infrastructure to relieve congestion, and people routinely share vehicles or multiple forms of transportation for their daily commute,” said president and CEO Mark Fields at CES.
In essence, Ford wants to be on the cutting edge of transportation innovation, and they need to figure out where to invest their money. Population is growing, particularly in the middle class, and people are stuck in crowded commutes and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Pollution is a problem for us and for the environment, and it’s affecting the way we choose to get around. How does a car company adapt?
To start, Ford awarded over $200,000 to 10 winners of its Innovate Mobility Challenge Series – companies and projects that are improving transportation, traffic, and health care delivery around the world:
- Smartaxi: An app that’s constantly analyzing data to predict where taxis are needed (Lisbon, Portugal).
- Mumbai Monsoon Helper: An app that helps commuters in Mumbai plan their travel during severe monsoons. It includes weather forecasts, warnings about flooding, and crowdsourced data on real-time conditions (Mumbai, India).
- Crowd Park: This app offers flexible prices for public and private parking lots, and sends you alerts when your spot is about to expire (Los Angeles).
- Flare: An app that helps rally volunteers and coordinate medical care after an accident (Delhi, India).
- SimPrints Solutions: Enables health care workers to access patients’ medical records using their fingerprint (Tamil Nadu, India).
- Parkopedia: An app that helps you find an available parking space, directs you to it, and provides other information. Currently available in 52 countries (Shanghai).
- MultiModal Transportation Platform: A tool that suggests different transportation options for your trip to help you save fuel and reduce pollution (Chongqing, China).
- Secondary Power Management System: A charger that can power devices in your vehicle, such as computers or lights, without draining power from the vehicle itself (Johannesburg).
- Urban Shuttle: Creators of a two-person Shuttle Car and a larger Shuttle Bus (both electric-powered) that could be alternatives to regular cars and buses (Argentina).
- AppyParking: An app that gives drivers information on parking restrictions, open spots, and the location of gas stations (London).
The rest of the experiments are in-house projects by Ford, sometimes partnering with other companies.
- Data collection: Some involve recruiting drivers who are willing to share their driving data, so Ford can better understand how people use their cars and explore ways to lower insurance premiums (Michigan, London).
- Car sharing: Others involve testing out different car sharing models: an on-demand option similar to Car2Go, car swapping among Ford employees, or groups of people sharing a single car (London, Michigan, Bangalore).
- Remote-controlled cars: Ford is even experimenting with golf carts controlled by a remote driver (Atlanta).
- Alternative commutes: Mini-bus shuttles are being tested to see if they’re faster and more comfortable for commuters (New York, London, Germany), and Ford is recruiting bikers to share data on their rides (Palo Alto).
- Electric vehicles: Ford is working with retailers and fast food restaurants to offer charging stations for electric vehicles (Michigan).
- Health care: Ford is partnering with local organizations to help transport medical workers to their patients in remote areas of Africa (Gambia).
- Parking: These experiments use Ford’s sonar and radar sensors to find parking spots (Atlanta), or a device that can tell you if you’re parked illegally (London).
This is a very startup-y approach to the problem: instead of assuming they know how driving will evolve, Ford is “getting out of the building,” collecting data, and asking consumers what they want. They hope to lead the conversation about the future of transport, and this is a promising start.
Ford was the Platinum Sponsor of our November 19 Miami Sessions – we thank them for their support!