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Ford prepares for the autonomous commute of the future with the Smart Mobility Plan

Speaking at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Ford has announced that it is implementing a new Smart Mobility Plan that promises to drastically shift the focus of the company over the coming decade.

The first phase of the Smart Mobility Plan calls for the launch of 25 mobility experiments in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America. The experiments will test ideas that anticipate what transportation will be like in ten years and beyond.

“The existing infrastructure for motor vehicles simply cannot sustain the sheer number of vehicles expected to be on the road in the coming years,” explained Ford CEO Mark Fields during a press conference.

The pilot programs range from gathering data on how 100 fleet drivers in Dearborn, Michigan, use their car to testing a sensor-based technology that looks for open parking spaces in Atlanta, Georgia. One studies ways to provide better healthcare to those who live in the most remote regions of Africa, while another uses a data recorder to create a driving behavior profile that can British motorists can use to get insurance discounts.

All told, Ford hopes the 25 experiments will solve four issues that the planet is currently facing: population growth, an expanding middle class, air quality and public health concerns and changing customer attitudes and priorities.

Also at CES, Ford detailed the latest generation of its touch screen-based SYNC infotainment system. The third-gen system brings a noticeably improved voice recognition software and a smartphone-like touch screen that boasts better graphics. SYNC 3 will be available on new Ford vehicles in a couple of months.

Finally, Ford revealed that it is currently testing a fully autonomous Fusion. The sedan pairs the semi-autonomous technology that is currently found in select Ford models with four LiDAR sensors that are used to generate a real-time 3D map of the road ahead. The sensors also help predict when other vehicles and pedestrians will move and where they will go.

“Full automation will be possible in areas where high definition mapping is available along with favorable environmental conditions for the vehicle’s sensors. There absolutely will be a Ford autonomous vehicle in the future. And we take putting one on the road very seriously and we will continue to take a thoughtful approach to getting there,” said Raj Nair, the Blue Oval’s top engineer.

With the Smart Mobility Plan, Ford aims to become a both a product and a mobility company.

“We see a world where vehicles talk to one another, drivers and vehicles communicate with the city infrastructure to relieve congestion, and people routinely share vehicles or multiple forms of transportation for their daily commute,” summed up Fields.

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