Ford Motor Company has announced several big changes this week, using the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as a platform to verbally launch itself onto the cutting edge of high-tech connectivity and what the automaker calls “Smart Mobility.”
In the not-so-distant future, says Ford Motor Co., autonomous vehicles will be commonplace, your Ford will be able to interface with your home, and drones and F-150 pickups will work together to perform surveillance of disaster areas for UN first responders. These revelations came about yesterday morning, when Ford Motor Company broke the news that its fleet of autonomous test vehicles is set to grow from 10 to 30 units, giving the automaker the largest autonomous testing fleet of any automaker.
At this point, according to The Detroit News, Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields reiterated the automaker’s plans to bring a fully-autonomous car to market before the end of the decade, and one that’s not solely accessible to the well-heeled. “It will not be just for those folks who can buy luxury vehicles,” remarked Fields.
Then came the news that Ford Motor Company is working toward enabling the use of Amazon’s Alexa cloud-based voice service with the SYNC infotainment system. Among other things, this would allow Ford customers to access smart technology-enabled home devices from their cars, and vice versa. It could mean the end of anxiety over bothersome concerns like “Did I leave the lights on?” or “Did I remember to close the garage door?”
Additionally, The Detroit News reports that Ford Motor Company – along with Chinese quadricopter (“drone”) manufacturer DJI – is expected to announce a developer challenge which seeks the best ideas with regard to how to use DJI drones to survey disaster areas. Using an app within the Ford SYNC system, first responders with the United Nations could theoretically launch and control drones from the cabin of a Ford F-150 to take video and create a map of hard-hit areas after a natural or man-made disaster.
Finally, Ford Motor Company has begun accepting applications to a program called “Techstars Mobility, Driven By Detroit.” The program will seek out fledgling startups with promising new mobility and transportation solutions, providing them with up to $120,000 in funding and three months of mentoring and training.
Ford Motor Company’s “Smart Mobility” Plan, already a broad and difficult-to-nail-down concept, has just gotten a bit bigger. Not, of course, that this is a bad thing; while Ford’s core business is continuing to measure up just fine against other global automakers, its recent focus on connectivity, innovation, and data and analytics might serve the company well when social shifts demand that it adapt to meet brand new challenges.
It’s not all about having the best petrol engine, after all.