Bill Ford Jr. Talks About The Future Of Transportation

Bill Ford Speaks with Media at 2011 NAIAS

In a recent op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, Bill Ford, Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company, offered his insights into the world of transportation and how it’s evolving. For an auto executive, he has a surprisingly realistic look at the future of transportation.

Here are the main features of his vision:

1. There will be up to 2 billion vehicles on the road by 2050.More and more people are moving to cities, which means “our current transportation model is not sustainable. Our infrastructure cannot support such a large volume of vehicles without creating massive congestion that would have serious consequences for our environment, health, economic progress and quality of life.”

2. Automakers will have to adjust their thinking about cars. Instead of focusing on individual units, they will need to think of cars as part of the broader transportation network.

3. The challenges facing the industry represent a $130 billion opportunity for car companies. According to Ford;

No matter how clean and efficient vehicles are, we simply cannot depend on selling more of them as they function today. Cars will need to be smarter and more integrated into the overall transportation system. Forward-looking companies will redefine themselves and move from being just car and truck manufacturers to become personal-mobility companies. We will be thinking more intelligently about how the vehicles we build interact with one another and with a city’s infrastructure, which includes trains, pedestrian walkways, buses, bikes and everything else that helps us move through urban centers.

4. Disruptive technologies such as Lyft, Uber and Zipcar are changing the way people think about car ownership. If people can conveniently rent or borrow a particular car for a particular need – a truck for a weekend home improvement project, a minivan to take the kids to the beach or a transportation pod to get back and forth to work – they will have less incentive to go out and buy a single purpose vehicle. Ford says it is still unclear how that dynamic will affect the new car marketplace but that manufacturers must be aware of the trend and be nimble enough to adapt their marketing strategies.

Rapidly changing preferences among car owners, including an ever-increasing emphasis on connectivity, will redefine the types of vehicles we bring to market, the features we focus on and how vehicles are marketed and used.

5. Connectivity between cars will increase dramatically in the future, smoothing traffic flow and decreasing collisions. Tomorrow’s cars will be integrated into the total transportation system and will permit drivers an unprecedented degree of personalization of control, comfort and infotainment systems.

Are you ready for this brave new world of self driving cars that cater to our every whim and desire? Is it possible that we will not actually own cars in the future but merely borrow them as needed? Bill Ford is asking these questions now so that the company his grandfather started will continue to thrive when the future finally gets here.

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.