Converging Technology and a Sustainable Ecosystem Driving the Future of Personal Mobility

01-01-2016 My Mobile

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Converging Technology and a Sustainable Ecosystem Driving the Future of Personal Mobility

Since the introduction of the automobile more than a century ago, personal mobility has changed radically. Cars have become more affordable to more people, andthe global transportation landscape has shifted to become increasingly connected, urban and crowded.In all this time, however, one thing has remained the same:

Personal mobility is about much more than just moving from A to B.It’s about human progress, and giving individuals the freedom to choose how they move and improve their lives.

In 2012, Bill Ford introduced our Blueprint for Mobility, a vision for the future that provides solutions for short-, mid- and long-term mobility needs. It calls for private businesses, regulators, cities and countries to take action to address the transportation challenges ahead for a more sustainable and viable future.

In the early days of the automobile, Henry Ford helped put the world on wheels, making high-quality carsat an affordable pricefor the average worker. But today the solution to ensuring mobility for all isn’t as simple asputting more wheels on the road: About one billion carsare already in use, and some estimates expect that number to rise to four billion by 2050. This issue is especially acute in urban areas in countries like China and India, where traffic congestion is already a major concern and car ownership is becoming more attainable.

At Ford, we’re approaching mobility in the 21st century with four megatrends in mind: explosive population growth in urban areas, an expanding middle class, air quality and public health concerns, and changing customer attitudes and priorities.

The first is urbanization or growing populations in urban environments. Today, there are 28 megacities or metropolitan areas with total populations of more than 10 million people worldwide. Fast-forward to 2030, and we expect to see at least 41 megacities worldwide. The existing infrastructure for motor vehicles simply cannot sustain the sheer number of vehicles expected to be on the road in the coming years. The future roadmap, therefore, has to include not only smarter cars but smarter roads and smarter cities.

At the same time many cities are growing, we see a second megatrend: the rapid growth of the global middle class. The Brookings Institute reports that the global middle class will double in size by 2030 – from 2 billion to 4 billion with Asia driving much of the growth. Many in this growing middle class will aspire to own a car – one of the traditional markers of economic progress for the last half-century – bringing a new set of challenges.

Think about the third megatrend: issues of air quality and related health risks from congestion. The World Health Organization and others have noted that urban air pollution is a serious social and public health issue.

The fourth megatrend would bechanging consumer attitudes and priorities. Millennials, those born between the early ’80s and early 2000s, are delaying marriage, buying homes and having children. As consumers, they behave differently from people of my generation and older – especially when it comes to mobility. In the U.S., for instance: 47 percent of people today like using their smartphone to plan their transportation; 39 percent say they travel by bus, train or taxi so they can multi-task; And 34 percent say they would be interested in renting their car to strangers if they could.

These trends prescribe how we’re approaching the future of urban mobility.It’s an approach that recognizes that sometimes the solution may not be a private car but shared ownership models, ride sharing, or a multi-modal journey that requires a combination of different types of transportation. It also considers rural settings, where public and advanced transportation options are limited and basic services harder to attain.

Greater integration between the technologies in automobiles, mobile devices and infrastructure will change how we interact with the services that move us from point A to point B.

A key component of our mobility strategy is getting people all over the world involved, and working with individuals, industry, academia and governments to find innovative solutions that meet the unique needs of different locations.

Take Mumbai, for example, the monsoon season can cripple the city for weeks at a time, with flooded roads and railways making mobility frustrating, time-intensive and dangerous. The Monsoon App Downpour challenge asked developers to come up with ways to leverage software and data – both historical and real-time – to provide a tool that can help people navigate through monsoon storms. The winning app, Mumbai Monsoon Helper, allows users to plan routes that avoid the most water-soaked areas using information gathered via crowd-sourcing. No one can stop the rain, but we can find ways to work around it.

These are just a few examples where people among us have come forward to address these mobility challenges. And there are many more issues like parking,increasing access to healthcare, and improving the delivery of services in rural and urban areas remaining to be addressed.

Rethinking how we all interact with the transportation options around us is crucial to creating more efficientand sustainable cities. At Ford, this means thinking beyond the car and engaging with other organizations to create a better world where personal mobility is more convenient, efficient and attainable for all.

(Opinions in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the stance of the magazine)

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