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Bill Ford Jr.  (Source: idetroitonline.com)
Ford said as the population increases, auto sales will increase, but congested highways will prevent us from traveling/commuting

At the Mobile World Congress (MWC) conference today, Bill Ford Jr. addressed his concern regarding future auto congestion in urban areas, which he says could eventually threaten our freedom to commute.

Bill Ford Jr. is the great-grandson of Henry Ford, who founded Ford Motor Company on June 16, 1903. Before the introduction of the Ford Model T in 1908, many people did not travel more than 25 miles from home. However, having an automobile made further travels possible -- it gave them freedom.

But Bill Ford Jr. said this freedom could be at risk due to increased population, which means increased auto sales and congested highways that could one day limit the number of automobiles that can be sold or used on the roads at a given time.

"What I'm really worried about is the role of the car in the long-term," said Ford. "If we do nothing, it will limit the number of vehicles we can sell. If we can solve this problem of urban mobility, I think there's a great business opportunity for us."

According to LMC Automotive, a consulting firm in Michigan, there are currently 1.2 billion vehicles on the roads globally.

While issues like the environmental impact of vehicles have already been addressed via efforts like the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) proposal that intends to boost fleet wide fuel economy to 54.5 mpg by 2025, Ford is moving on to other issues that are not so close to being addressed. His issue of choice is what to do about future traffic jams once the population increases, and urges the mobile technology industry to take action in developing solutions.

Ford already has a few solutions in mind, and they're all communications-based answers. Some are currently being developed, and some are not. For instance, Ford sees cars having radar-based cruise control and blind-spot monitoring systems in five years that allow vehicles to communicate with one another. These systems are currently being developed, where vehicles can "talk" to each other, offering information like the speed of another vehicle nearby. This could potentially avoid fatal crashes. Toyota is just one automaker that discussed the introduction of smart road technology back in 2010. Others like Ford and General Motors have worked to offer better and smarter safety systems as well, but they're mostly crash-based instead of traffic congestion-based.

Ford envisions a future beyond 2025 where cars will drive themselves as close together as possible to use the maximum amount of space on a highway. Vehicles will also do the same in parking lots to make more room for others. In addition, he imagines automakers building smaller cars that can offer additional space for other drivers.

"Even if the technology is there, there's still going to have to be tremendous thought by urban planners," said Ford. "That [driving] freedom has been threatened unless we redefine what personal mobility can be in a congested urbanized world."

Source: The Detroit News



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HOV lanes
By lolmuly on 2/27/2012 11:39:41 AM , Rating: 5
Cheapest solution will be to take the HOV lanes and turn them into automatic vehicle lanes (sorry car-poolers). Develop a standard by which all automatically driven cars communicate by, and you can pack them in bumper to bumper at 65 mph in those lanes (think millisecond reaction times). You can then figure that over time as the percentage of manually driven vehicles decreases you can simply re-purpose regular lanes for automatic vehicles. All of the vehicles currently on the 405 could probably fit into 2 lanes if they were driven by computers, and then the cars would simply merge out of the automatic lanes when they neared their exit.

In this manner you would have an almost seamless transition between computer controlled and manually controlled traffic. Start the turnover around say 2025? We'll have ~95% saturation by 2045, and enthusiasts could still keep their manually driven vehicles.

Just need to standardize car-to-car communications and get the laws passed to make it happen.




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