Ahead of the 2016 Los Angeles International Auto Show, the city played host to the first-ever “AutoMobility LA” trade show, where automakers and other players in the so-called “mobility industry” congregated to discuss the business of helping people move about.
As a matter of course, Ford was present, with company CEO Mark Fields taking to the stage for the event’s opening keynote address. It was there that the executive began to wax poetic about the “City of Tomorrow” – a theoretical utopia in which getting around is quick and painless – and how Ford Smart Mobility was working to make it a reality.
“Before mass production of affordable automobiles, most people never ventured more than 10 miles from home. In their lifetimes,” Fields said. “Imagine never leaving the 10-mile radius around your house. When you think about it that way, you can really appreciate the significance of that first major change to personal mobility.”
Ford has said on several occasions that it sees its new “Smart Mobility” direction as being no less important than the company’s first life-changing contribution to mobility: the mass-produced horseless carriage. But try as we might to hammer down precisely what Ford Smart Mobility really entails, we can speak of it only in broad terms; Ford wants to change the transportation game yet again.
“Right here, in Los Angeles, commuters can easily spend more than an hour each way getting to work,” said Ford’s CEO. “That’s two hours out of the day when you’re trapped in traffic. Over a lifetime, that’s nearly 25 percent of your free time – the hours you’re not working or sleeping.” Plus, “congestion is costly in other ways, too. LA congestion accounts for one-fifth of the congestion in the US and costs the city $23 billion every year.”
Clearly, then, LA’s infrastructure has been outgrown, and the story is much the same in cities around the world.
In response, a new “Ford City Solutions” team has been created, which is working with San Francisco to try and come up with intelligent solutions to the city’s mobility deficiencies. Think of SF as sort of a dry run before the team picks up additional clients. “We know every city is unique, with different needs and unique transportation challenges,” said Fields. “Instead of offering a single set of solutions to all cities, we’re working with each city directly to identify the needs of its citizens and tailor transportation solutions for them.”
But the story doesn’t end there; Ford’s CEO chose AutoMobility LA as the venue to reveal that the company is now starting to collaborate with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg “in his philanthropic work with a coalition of mayors worldwide. We’re discussing how we can work together to help create the City of Tomorrow, incubating ideas around mobility and to accelerate solutions in cities.
“Working with Bloomberg, we will collect the best ideas from around the world and put them into action.”