Imagine a large city that is clean and green and laden with highly advanced technologies, brimming with autonomous vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians not having to worry about any accident or collision. Certainly, this city is one that starts as a dream. Could it be realized or will it remain just a dream?
Currently, no such city exists. Even in small cities, vehicle accidents frequently occur and the amount of pollution is increasing each day. In a large metropolis, there are the issues of heavy road traffic, lack of road discipline and scarce parking space. In many cities around the world, air pollution has become a major problem, with heavy smog wrapping the urban areas in one sweep every morning. So, if you ask us if a city like this would be possible in the near future, the answer is no. But, we also aren’t saying that it is impossible.
If you ask Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, his answer would be that such a city could be achieved. Bill is heavily betting on the result of the “City of Tomorrow” project initiated by Ford’s City Solutions team in cooperation with different cities around the world and with Bloomberg Philanthropies. According to Bill, the issue regarding cities is not just about road congestion – it is a mobility challenge. He noted that this mobility challenge is a massive issue that affects people’s access to clean drinking water, food and a safe place to live as well as health care and their ability to find a job.
Ford’s City of Tomorrow aims to address this issue, envisioning a transportation ecosystem where autonomous and electric cars, connected vehicles as well as ride-sharing and ride-hailing services – mobility advancements that are expected to be achieved in the near term – are able to interact with urban infrastructure. Ford’s vision is premised on the expectation that carmakers would launch autonomous vehicles in cities around the world in the next five years – the carmaker itself is planning to introduce its first fully autonomous vehicles in 2021.
Ford is also expecting EVs around the world to outnumber their gasoline-powered counterparts in the next 15 years. Likewise, the US carmaker is expecting the continued rise of ride-sharing and ride-hailing operations, including its Chariot app-based, crowd-sourced ride sharing service. So far, Chariot’s operations are limited in San Francisco, California and Austin, Texas, although it will be expanding to eight cities -- at least one of which is located outside the US -- this 2017.
While the idea of a City of Tomorrow seems far off, Ford is actually not rushing things. The carmaker is basing its expectations on the current pace of technology development – in short, it is optimistic that it will realize its vision.
In the near future, Ford expects vehicles to be able to communicate with transportation operating systems, thereby prompting several big-time technology changes like wireless charging and enhanced connectivity. It also expects cities to employ new operating systems to help them to centrally manage several aspects of city transportation system.
In the long term, Ford expects the City of Tomorrow to be realized with roads filled with mostly electrified autonomous vehicles. Likewise, Ford expects the City of Tomorrow to employ high-speed mass transit systems as one mobility solution. In addition, Ford expects drones to fulfill several functions while data from the transportation ecosystem are now seamlessly integrated into the cities’ operating systems.
Ford expects all these changes – coupled with the use of advanced technologies – to get rid of traffic jams, lower emissions and almost completely eliminate road accidents. Moreover, since people now prefer ride sharing services and public transports, space once used for roads and parking areas could now be converted into green space and parks.