BOCHUM, Germany -- Ford today announced research collaborations in Germany and the UK to look at future mobility and autonomous driving solutions.
Ford said it will team up with Germany's RWTH Aachen University in a two-year project to identify technologies and services that will meet customers' changing expectations for personal mobility. The project will also help to address increasing traffic congestion and environmental issues, the company said in a statement.
Ford CEO Mark Fields said the automaker needed to address growing risks from urbanization, air pollution and changing consumer attitudes.
"Without question, we are embarking on one of the most transformative eras in the history of the auto industry and in the history of Ford," Fields told the annual conference of Germany's Center Automotive Research (CAR) here today.
Ford will look at companies such as Apple and Amazon that have expanded from being single product and service providers to delivering full hardware and software platforms and services.
The project with RTWH will identify how such approaches could deliver enhanced car-ownership experiences; new ideas for car-sharing and personalization of mobility solutions; and create innovative features and new business opportunities.
Ford says four megatrends are driving the company’s thinking:
- Urbanization as the number of megacities with populations of more than 10 million people grows to 41 by 2030 from 28 today. This will place pressure on existing road infrastructures and create a need for smarter cars, smarter roads and smarter cities
- Rapid growth of the global middle class, which experts forecast will double in size to 4 billion by 2030, boosting car ownership but also bringing increased traffic congestion
- Air quality as increasing numbers of vehicles create the need for more fuel-efficient and alternative powertrains
- Changing consumer attitudes as younger customers opt for alternatives to car ownership.
"We have to rethink how Ford can be relevant and appealing to millenials,” Fields said. "As consumers, they behave differently especially when it comes to mobility and especially in Europe."
Field said one reason why young customers in Europe are less interested in owning a car is the increased congestion on city streets and the very credible alternative offered by public transit and railways.
"It is estimated 20 percent of all the cars driving around the French capital are looking for a parking space," he said. "Europe is not immune to increasing threats of congestion and overwhelmed infrastructure."
Ford said it will contribute to a UK government-sponsored project that is researching how driver-less and connected cars can be integrated into everyday life.
Ford will provide two prototype cars with vehicle-to-vehicle communication capability to help test an innovative public transport system.
Ford has equipped a fleet of fully autonomous Fusion hybrid research vehicles with its semi-autonomous technology such as lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision automatic braking and active parking assistance. It also added four LiDAR sensors to the test cars to generate a real-time 3-D map of the surrounding environment.