Ford warns of 'global gridlock'

2012-02-28 13:11

BARCELONA, Spain - The man whose grandfather led the way to mass-production of cars wants their numbers cut to end road congestion. How's that for a U-turn?

Ford executive chairman Bill Ford outlined his vision for smart transportation and for the development of intelligent vehicles and transport systems at the Mobile World Congress 2012 in Barcelona. And FEWER cars!

He told delegates the number of cars on the world’s roads would grow from a billion to four billion by 2050 and proposed that one way of avoiding global gridlock would be a global transportation network that would allow 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," he warned. “The co-operation 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."

(Or, of course, just stop making cars. - Ed.)

“No one company or industry will be able to solve the mobility issue and the speed at which solutions take hold will be determined largely by customers' acceptance of new technologies. The telecommunications industry is critical to the creation of an inter-connected transport 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."


Ford's “Blueprint for Mobility” will seek solutions for a problem that is already a reality in expanding vehicle markets around the world. Sao Paulo traffic jams regularly exceed 160km and the average commute lasts between two and three hours a day. Despite this, the vehicle industry is growing at a rate of 7.5% a year. In China, the world’s longest period of gridlock was registered at 11 days during 2010.

The problem is not restricted to emerging markets. It's estimated that the cost of congestion to the British economy through lost time will rise to around R262-billion a year by 2025. In Germany, sustaining a town of 300 000 people is estimated to require 1000 truck deliveries a day.

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

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


Ford hopes 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.
MID-TERM (2017-25)

The introduction of semi-autonomous driving technology, including driver-initiated “auto pilot” capabilities and vehicle platooning in limited situations. Ford predicts significantly more interaction between individual cars through of ever-increasing computing power and numbers of sensors in vehicles, helping reduce the number of accidents at road junctions and enabling limited semi-autonomous and autonomous highway lane-changing and exiting.

Ford said: “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 each another and the network.

“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+)

Ford predicts a radically different transport landscape over which pedestrian, bicycle, private car, commercial and public transport will be woven into a single connected network to save time, conserve resources, reduce emissions and improve safety.

The arrival of smart vehicles capable of autonomous navigation and better “auto pilot” operating and the arrival of autonomous valet functions, delivering effortless vehicle parking and storage.