The second half of the 2016 Further with Ford conference was soon underway. My head was already swimming with a boatload of information from Part 1, so the next parts were challenging to keep up with. Fortunately, there was a tasty custom snack station in the entry hall to recharge. Several exhibits were also set up to show Ford’s efforts in mobility, technology, and innovation. LiDAR Sensors are used in Ford’s autonomous vehicles to digitally map out the area ahead. To better understand how advanced this technology is, we were given the opportunity to do a 3D selfie. It was amazing but weird…
Then it was time to get back to work.
Breakout Sessions — Chasing Butterflies & Everlasting Infatuation
Next, we broke off into two groups. One group listened to a discussion on how Ford is reducing water used in production, minimizing waste, and expanding the biomaterials in the vehicle to be even more sustainable. The group I was part of attended the session on how the brand is aiming to deliver a lasting experience for customers beyond the initial purchase.
Tied to the efforts being pioneered in San Francisco (as mentioned in the previous article), traffic around the world is a serious issue. A good example of that is the megacity of Beijing. The average commute is five hours a day but just adding more roads won’t solve the problems. On a 50-lane highway, there was a traffic jam that lasted 12 days in 2015. Also, in generations past, the car was a great a universal solution but, today, it’s not. Our travel needs change regularly, sometimes even daily.
We often have to step back at least one or two orders of magnitude in the system and look at what’s going on. — Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO.
2016 Further with Ford Conference — Cult of Disruption
How does a century-old company survive? By Ford disrupting its own pattern of business before someone else does it for them. Dan Lyons chatted with Raj Nair to find out just that. New technology and fresh business models are necessary for the brand. Ford must look at how to change the definition of what’s being solved. For example, connectivity is no longer an option. Cars need to be connected and that involves some 17 million lines of code. The challenge is not adding yet another button to control each new feature, though.
Raj shared an experience of having 12 buttons for terrain management. When his wife was stuck in the snow, it made no sense to her why she had to put the car on the “cactus” symbol. As an engineer, it was clear to Raj that meant deep snow or sand. But, to the average user, the idea of a cactus and snowy conditions have no relation.
2016 Further with Ford Conference — Cult of Disruption Innovations
Lastly, we were given a peek into the innovation happening at Ford. The company encourages its engineers to create and invent. In a segment called Ford Think Tank, the ideas of three men were featured and we had a mini contest to see which the audience liked best.
- On-the-Go H20 by Doug Martin: Collects and filters condensation from the air-conditioning unit to provide fresh water, especially in lands where it is scarce.
- Phone As Car by Oleg Gusikhin, Omar Makke and Jeff Yeung: When in the back seat, ride sharing passengers can remotely control the heating/air-conditioning, the radio, and can even use real-time audible translation for international travel.
- Carr-E by Kilian Vas: A mini segway that’s the size and shape of a spare tire is used to help carry heavy items or even a person.
Due to conflicting schedules, I had to leave before the closing keynote and drive experiences the next day. I heard some great things about it including being able to go on a test track with the Stig himself from Top Gear (UK). However, the company was kind enough to send me the event parting gift. Ford is partnering with HARMAN to bring B&O PLAY Sound System to its vehicles. In honor of this, each attendee was given a set of Bang & Olufsen B&O PLAY H3 earbuds.
Whew! That was one seriously jam-packed day! It’s clear that Ford is not content to rest on its laurels and fade into non-existence. The brand is dedicated to bringing better products and services to current and future customers. I can’t wait to see what else we’ll be seeing from this automotive giant in the years to come.
I was invited on an all-expense paid media event to attend this conference. All opinions are my own.