Use new technologies for addressing mobility challenges

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Sep 6 2014, 07:52am hrs
Mobility is a basic human need. Developed and emerging economies alike require transportation systems to get goods to market and people to places. While urbanisation is inevitable, it also raises some mobility concerns; for example, in Indias scenario, smooth movement of cars on flooded roads or parking woes. Lets take the case of parking. How about an app that allows drivers to pay for parking, view parking maps, identify free parking slots and find electric vehicle charging stations On these lines, Ford Motor Company announced that it will conduct the Ford Innovate Mobility Challenge series in India, which invites software developers to propose solutions to locally-relevant issues for drivers. Venkatesh Prasad, Group & Senior Technical Leader, Vehicle Design And Infotronics, Ford Research & Innovation, Ford Motor Company, in an interview with FEs Vikram Chaudhary, shares how Ford is reaching out to the best minds in the developer community for developing new-age solutions and how this series is a step towards addressing issues facing the diverse needs of cities around the world. Excerpts:

What is the Ford Innovate Mobility Challenge series Why does Ford see merit in championing mobility solutions

It is estimated that over the next few decades, the worlds population will grow to 9 billion, with two-thirds expected to be living in urban areas. Using new technologies to address mobility challenges will be crucial. With a vision to democratise technology, Ford has been investing in SMART technology that helps our consumers go further and the Innovate Mobility Challenge is an extension of this vision.

The series will invite developers to work on novel solutions to help address unique mobility issues that each city faces. These applications are not only for the benefit of the car driver, they aim to positively impact all commuters; whatever their mode of transport might be, motorised or non-motorised. The initiative is a step in our companys quest to find sustainable mobility solutions. A more connected mobility landscape will encourage efficiency, increase safety, reduce traffic congestion and contribute to environmental improvements as well as shape personal mobility in a more effective way.

What kind of apps is Ford looking at receiving

The Innovate Mobility Challenge series encourages developers to integrate real-time vehicle information into apps that relate to sustainability and mobility issues, whether by incorporating the data into existing apps or creating new apps from scratch.

We initiated the London Traffic Tamer Challenge, where over 100 individual developers, teams and organisations signed up to submit apps. Over 40% of participants used Fords OpenXC platform to access information from the developers own cars.

What are the challenges to mobility in Indias urban areas

Urbanisation is inevitable; when it is seen as essential to economic growth, it also raises huge mobility concerns. In countries like India, a citys efficiency is totally dependent on the effectiveness of the mobility systems the city functions on. Motorisation in India is growing and along with it the challenges of the country increase, issues like traffic congestion, crippled infrastructure, parking difficulties, increased air and fuel consumption as well as major safety concerns. Different-sized cities utilise different mobility infrastructure, so Ford has launched this challenge to find local solutions to local problems.

Can technology help overcome such challenges

Yes, technology can act as a facilitator in overcoming such challenges. We are investing significant research and development in new models of transportation, and helping to advance thinking about it.

With these challenges, were reaching out to the best minds in the developer community, because we know that no single company or individual holds the answer. The Innovate Mobility App Challenge is a step towards addressing a specific issue facing the diverse needs of cities around the world.

What is your vision for the future of mobility, especially in emerging countries

Mobility is a basic human need. Developed and emerging economies alike require transportation systems to get goods to market and people to the places where they work, shop, dine and gather. There are currently 1 billion vehicles in the world, and that number is increasing rapidlyit could reach 4 billion by the middle of this century.

As exciting as this sounds for an automobile brand, a business model built on private ownership of automobiles comes with inherent challenges, which are related directly to the current and emerging mega-trends like urbanisation, climate change, congestion, built and digital infrastructure and population. Our blueprint for mobility outlines what the company believes transportation will look like in 2025 and beyond, and the technologies, business models and partnerships needed to get there. Using new technologies to address mobility challenges will be crucial for customers globally, which is why partner-based projects like the global challenge series will remain an integral part of Fords plan, going forward.