The day when you can sit behind the wheel of your car and play a game on your smartphone or check your emails without fear of leaving the road is not far off, according to Ford boss Bill Ford Jr.
The great-grandson of car pioneer Henry Ford said during a presentation at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week that motorists could be switching their vehicles to autopilot within the next ten years.
Ford acknowledged that such technology was already in development — Google’s self-driving car project, for example — and that it was essential to continue with the development in order to cope with the expected global proliferation of automobiles from today’s one billion to four billion in the next 40 years.
The boss of the American car giant said he expected that cars will soon be able to communicate with not only the driver but also with other cars, helping vehicles to take better advantage of available road space and keeping drivers informed of approaching road conditions.
Ford believes the move towards such high-tech cars will happen in three stages:
Near-term – In the next five years, he said vehicles will be equipped with car-to-car warning systems and will be able to drive themselves in slow traffic and even park themselves.
Mid-term – Between 2017 and 2025, Ford believes cars will have the technology to reduce the role of the driver markedly, and that many automobiles will be at least semi-autonomous. He also talked of “vehicle platooning” whereby vehicles proceed pretty much bumper to bumper through the use of car-mounted sensors. This will improve safety and save space on roads which will by that time be busier than ever.
Long-term – At some point from 2025, Ford said he expected that many vehicles will be fully autonomous.
“Cars are becoming mobile communications platforms,” he said. “Right now, there are a billion computing devices in the form of individual vehicles out on our roads. They’re largely unconnected from one another and the network.”
He continued, “We’ll increasingly take advantage of the car as a rolling collection of sensors to reduce congestion and help prevent accidents.”
Besides discussing the cars of the future, Bill Ford Jr was also at the Mobile World Congress to unveil the SYNC-equipped B-Max MPV, a car already looking to the future with its own impressive list of high-tech features, including the ability to contact the emergency services in the event of an accident.