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Buzz Increases around "Urban Mobility"

Buzz Increases around "Urban Mobility"

By Jeff Youngs, March 08, 2012
Bill Ford wants consumers to know that Ford Motor Company is concerned about the future of what the industry calls "urban mobility" and how it will affect individual drivers around the world. So are Audi of America executives. Collectively, the ideas of automakers will help shape what the "car of the future" looks like and how much more it might be able to offer owners compared to today's models.

Today, half a world apart, these two automakers are promoting their insights into the unprecedented traffic congestion that is likely to result from the world's burgeoning population, especially considering that many people seem to be migrating to the biggest cities. The potential solutions could affect practically everyone who owns a vehicle in or near a major urban center.

The executive chairman of Ford Motor Company has a concern about urban congestion that isn't so much about emissions (he believes that an electric-car revolution essentially will render vehicles pollution-less, at some point) as much as another type of environmental challenge. How will a soon-to-be population of 7 billion global citizens co-exist peaceably, even comfortably, and move about within a more connected world.

Ford is concerned how the growing population and changing attitude toward mobility will affect, and be affected by, Ford's business. At the Mobile World Congress, a major gathering of cellular-communications companies that was recently held in Barcelona, Ford shared thoughts about the future of urban transportation and about how automakers, working with consumers, with one another and with governments, can ease the space crunch that seems inevitable.

"What I'm really worried about is the role of the automobile in the long term," Ford told the Associated Press recently. "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."

So, as Ford told the Wall Street Journal, Ford Motor is accelerating its investment in "vehicle-to-vehicle communications" and other technologies that will help vehicles communicate with one another to keep their distance in traffic jams, instantaneously network about imminent traffic difficulties, and perhaps take over automatic operation of the vehicle if the driver is in trouble or mired in traffic.

Other appeals of such technology would be sophisticated self-parking and an ability for consumers to enjoy more infotainment amenities in the vehicle without having to be concerned about actually driving the vehicle.

Meanwhile, Audi of America executives led by President and CEO Johan de Nysschen were similarly soliciting ideas on the future of urban mobility from fellow attendees at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference in Long Beach, Calif.

Audi also is presenting what a company called its own "vision for the role transportation will play in the world's increasingly congested urban centers of the future," which it expects to include "piloted" vehicles similar to those in Ford's vision. Audi was also promoting its e-tron EV technology that soon will be featured on a pilot basis in Audi A3 sedans in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver and Washington, D.C.
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