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Ford announces new research projects for mobility and autonomous vehicles

Ford has announced new research collaborations to drive innovation in mobility and autonomous vehicles and help solve future global transportation challenges.

During 2015, Ford will contribute to the Government-sponsored UK Autodrive initiative which is researching how driverless and connected cars can be integrated into everyday life.

It will work alongside other manufacturers to study how driverless and connected cars can be integrated into everyday life, and will provide two prototype cars with vehicle-to-vehicle communication capability to help test an innovative public transport system.

Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity technologies, such as those tested in real-world urban environments during the UK Autodrive initiative, will contribute to the development of fully autonomous vehicles.

Ford’s semi-autonomous vehicle features that are available today include Lane Keeping Aid, Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection and Active Park Assist – with Traffic Jam Assist coming.

A fleet of fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicles is undergoing further development and ongoing road testing as Ford shifts its autonomous vehicle efforts from a research program into a vehicle development program.

The vehicles use the same semi-autonomous technology available in Ford vehicles today, while adding four LiDAR sensors to generate a real-time 3D map of the surrounding environment.

The vehicle can sense objects around it using the LiDAR sensors, and uses advanced algorithms in concert with high fidelity maps to help it determine where vehicles and pedestrians are located and to predict where they might move.

Changing the future of mobility

The Personal Mobility Experience Innovation project brings together experts from the Ford European Research and Innovation Centre, Aachen, Germany and the Technology and Innovation Management Institute of RWTH Aachen University to study business models from a range of industries to learn how they could be applied to the automotive industry and help deliver mobility solutions.

Ford will look at examples such as Apple and Amazon, who have expanded from being single product and service providers to delivering a wide range of hardware and software platforms and services.

The project will identify how such approaches could deliver enhanced car-ownership experiences; new approaches to car-sharing and personalisation of mobility solutions; and create innovative features and new business opportunities.

“This is an exciting time because while we are confronting real challenges to mobility as the world becomes more crowded and urbanised, we are also in the midst of a technological sea change that will help us find solutions,” said Pim van der Jagt, executive technical leader, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. “This project is about tapping into the best thinking from other industries and sectors to deliver new mobility solutions.”

Four megatrends are driving the company’s thinking around innovation in mobility:

  • Urbanisation: by 2030, at least 41 megacities with populations of more than 10 million people are anticipated worldwide compared to 28 today, placing pressure on existing road infrastructures and creating a need for smarter cars, smarter roads and smarter cities.
  • Rapid growth of the global middle class: experts suggest the global middle class will double in size to 4 billion by 2030. Many in this growing middle class will aspire to own a car, creating an obligation for automakers to address potential global gridlock.
  • Air quality issues: increasing numbers of vehicles create the need for automakers to address air quality issues with more fuel efficient and alternative powertrains
  • Changing consumer attitudes: younger generations have different mobility habits – especially in Europe where integrated urban transit systems provide a credible alternative to car-ownership – creating a need for automakers to rethink how they remain relevant.

Both of these projects are elements of Ford Smart Mobility, announced earlier this year, to foster innovation in the areas of connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data.

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