Talking mobility, autonomous cars, and the future with a forward-looking Ford

Ford has conducted all kinds of mobility experiments to gain a deeper understanding of what customers need today and what they’ll want tomorrow — and what’s over the horizon sounds amazing.

The company is betting big on mobility for the future, as it aims to create a complete marketplace of mobile apps and services with a range of different partners. This strategy is centered on the new FordPass platform, which will be launched in the U.S. and Europe later this year.

We first heard about the FordPass service at the Detroit Auto Show in January, but at MWC in Barcelona Digital Trends had a chance to sit down with Will Farrelly, Product Innovation at Ford, and Jorg Ullrich, Advanced Consumer Experience Marketing, to drill down into what it can do.

With FordPass installed on your iPhone or Android smartphone, the company told Digital Trends, you’ll be able to use the app to unlock your car and to remotely start it in some markets, which is ideal for cold climates. You can also use it to control access, which is great for a shared family car, allowing you to decide who can drive it at any given time. But this is about much more than control. The app also collects a range of detailed diagnostics covering things like mileage and fuel levels for each driver.

When your car needs service, you can schedule it through the app. Ford is partnering with a number of service providers so you can use the app to locate convenient parking. The Parkopedia database provides a global map of parking spaces, and through partnerships with companies like Mobile City, you’ll be able to find on-street parking and pay for it through the app. That should take the stress out of finding a spot and dispense with the need to fish around for small change to pay your meter.

These are features that fit in with the way we use cars today, but Ford has an eye on the future, too. Imagine being able to pull up at street level at your destination, jump out, and leave your car to park itself. When you’re ready to head home, you call your car from the app, and it’s waiting for you on the street when you emerge. Autonomous parking like this will also be much more efficient, Ford claims, reducing the chance of any accidents and enabling more cars to be packed in, because doors won’t need to be opened and human drivers won’t be manoeuvring.

Partnerships with business like BP, McDonalds, and 7-Eleven will offer users of FordPass exclusive offers. The service will guide you to the nearest BP station when you need to fill up: You sit safe and snug inside while a robot fills the tank.

Another major element of this is car-sharing. Ford has partnered with Flinkster in Germany to provide access to 4,000 cars across the country. Similar partnerships will extend this internationally, allowing members to pick up cars when they need them, based on their own preferences. Ullrich envisions a future where individual car ownership is a thing of the past and we simply call autonomous cars when we need them.

A lot of these developments might be years away, but Ford is firmly focussed on the horizon.

To ensure that people understand these new services, and get a chance to try them out and discuss any questions they may have, Ford is creating special FordHubs in major cities like London, Shanghai, and San Francisco. The first will open in New York’s Westfield World Trade Centre later this year.

The FordPass service also gives users access to FordGuides, experts in the mobility services and apps who can answer questions and solve issues. They’re available 24 hours a day, like a kind of concierge service, and they should help smooth the transition to this new way of thinking about and managing cars.

A lot of these developments might be years away, but Ford is firmly focussed on the horizon. It clearly recognizes that it might need to transition from being primarily a car manufacturer to a service provider in a future where car ownership as we know it may be a thing of the past.

Emerging Tech

Michigan’s former transportation chief has some advice for wannabe smart cities

After 31 years as Michigan’s transportation director, Kirk Steudle has seen it all, particularly with smart city projects. He spoke with Digital Trends recently about what makes smart cities work, and offers advice along the way.

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.

Be at your most productive with these Slack tips and tricks

Slack is an common means of communication in the workplace, but how do you use some of the app's lesser-known features to get the most out of your experience? Here's what you need to know to stay organized, efficient, and entertained.
Product Review

Rylo is the 360 camera that finally makes 360 video useful

The Rylo puts a new spin on 360 video by focusing on flat, fixed-frame output. It can’t quite replace your action camera or camcorder, but it shows a glimmer of what the future of consumer video could be.

From Rolls-Royce to Lamborghini, these are the most expensive cars in the world

If you recently discovered an oil reserve in your backyard, you probably have some extra cash to spend. Look no further, because we’ve rounded up the most expensive cars in the world.

Lime’s first carsharing service motors into Seattle this week

Lime may be better known for its app-based bike and scooter rental services, but in Seattle, Washington this week it's launching its very first carsharing service, similar to Car2go and Zipcar.

Land Rover shows its artsy side by previewing the 2020 Range Rover Evoque

Land Rover made life-sized wire sculptures to preview the 2020 Range Rover Evoque. The all-new SUV will make its debut during a private event held in London on November 22, and deliveries will begin in 2019.

These headlights have 4 color settings to help save lives under all conditions

Boslla headlights are an easy-to-install solution to achieve all-weather lighting for your vehicle. After a quick ten-minute install, these lights have up to four settings to get you through anything.

Car parts maker ZF is using drones to deliver components to its factories

ZF recently became the first entity in Germany to receive approval to use drones to deliver spare parts, and the company now uses them to deliver parts from its central warehouses to its workshops.

The DBX SUV will go where no Aston Martin has gone before

When it launches in 2019, the Aston Martin DBX will be the British automaker's first SUV. In the meantime, camouflaged DBX prototypes will undergo strenuous testing around the world.

Ford teams up with Walmart to study consumer response to autonomous delivery

Last week it was Ford and VW, and this week Ford and Walmart are signaling a desire to work together on autonomous vehicles solutions. Ford and the giant retailer will study consumer reactions to self-driving delivery vehicles.

Our favorite fuel-efficient cars are as frugal as they are fun

You don't need to opt for a hybrid or an all-electric ride in order to achieve good fuel economy. These vehicles pack both performance and style, whether you're in the market for a luxury sedan or a game-changing pickup truck.

Out of juice? Learn how to jump-start a car with this quick guide

Jumping a car is a simple procedure, but not everyone knows how to properly do so. To make things easier, we've put together a quick-hit guide on how to fire up your vehicle using jumper cables and a second power source.

Born to run (forever): The most reliable cars you can buy right now

We all dread the thought of our car turning into a money pit, but choosing a dependable vehicle from the start can help us rack up countless care-free miles. Here, we've rounded up some of the most reliable cars available.