LAS VEGAS — Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields kicked off the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show Tuesday with a speech that highlighted the Dearborn-based automaker’s in-vehicle technologies — and a Ford exhibit that showcases 25 “global experiments” in transportation.
The company announced its Ford Smart Mobility plan to advance in-vehicle connectivity, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data. Ford also announced 25 mobility experiments around the world this year to test breakthrough transportation ideas to create better customer experiences, more flexible user-ship models and social collaboration that can reward customers.
“Even as we showcase connected cars and share our plans for autonomous vehicles, we are here at CES with a higher purpose,” Fields said in a statement. “We are driving innovation in every part of our business to be both a product and mobility company — and, ultimately, to change the way the world moves just as our founder Henry Ford did 111 years ago.”
Also at CES, Ford is demonstrating its new vehicle connectivity system Sync 3, as well as highlighting semi-autonomous vehicles the company has on the road today and fully autonomous vehicles now in development.
The 25 experiments address four global trends – population growth, an expanding middle class, air quality and public health, and changing customer attitudes and priorities – that put at risk today’s transportation model and can limit personal mobility, especially in urban areas.
Fourteen of the 25 experiments are Ford-led research projects, and 11 are part of the company’s Innovate Mobility Challenge Series, in which Ford invited innovators and developers around the world to create solutions for specific mobility challenges in North America and around the world. There are also experiments on everything from fleets to car sharing, everywhere from Dearborn to the United Kingdom to India to Gambia.
Challenges included finding open parking spaces in urban areas, better ways to navigate crowded cities, car sharing for office workers, and the use of navigation and other tools to help people gain access to medical care in remote areas.
As for Sync 3, Ford says it’s faster, more intuitive and easier to use with enhanced response to driver commands than earlier models, including more conversational speech recognition technology, a more smartphone-like touch screen; and easier-to-read graphics. Sync 3 begins arriving on new vehicles this year.
And Ford’s semi-autonomous vehicle features available today include lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection and active park assist – with Traffic Jam Assist coming.
A fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicle is undergoing road testing. The vehicle uses the same semi-autonomous technology in Ford vehicles today, while adding four LiDAR sensors to generate a real-time 3D map of the surrounding environment.
The vehicle can sense objects around it using the LiDAR sensors, and uses advanced algorithms to help it learn to predict where vehicles and pedestrians might move.
Fields told USA Today in a preview of the keynote: “As a mobility company, we are aiming for innovation with a higher purpose. The trends we’re looking at are major urbanization, air quality issues and a growing global middle class. That brings up questions about what this all means for our business today and for the future.”
During the keynote, Fields and other For executives said they wanted to create not just better cars, but a better customer experience — doing so by learning about driver behavior, driving styles, traffic and weather, and communicating all that to the driver in a meaningful, safe way.
The Ford executives also talked about a better “usership” experience — note the choice of words, not ownership, meaning a vehicle use model that goes beyond buying or leasing.
Automotive exhibit space at CES is up 17 percent from last year, reflecting the increasingly high-tech nature of the automobile, from in-vehicle information and entertainment systems to the powertrain.