Recently I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 Further with Ford Conference in Palo Alto, California. I’m in heaven because I’m at the heart of Silicon Valley, near some of my favorite companies (Google, HP, Cisco, Facebook, Apple) and I get to learn about cars and technology.
2015 Further with Ford Conference
Further with Ford is only in its fifth year but has turned into one of Ford’s largest media events outside of dedicated automotive car shows. The Further with Ford conference is unique in that it brings together numerous experts and around 250 journalists and media personalities from around the world to showcase where the company is going and to explain some of the trends that helps drive the company as it moves into the future. This event is also used to present some of Ford’s current technology improvements, future technology and how Ford plans on solving some of the common issues facing consumers.
What’s great about Further with Ford is that it’s unlike other automotive media events I have attended in the past. It’s a similar experience to a technology boot camp which I have taken many times in the San Francisco Bay Area. What excited me most about this conference? It wasn’t being able to touch and see the latest Ford GT super car or test driving new vehicles like the 435HP 2015 Mustang GT (although both were VERY cool). It was seeing how forward-thinking Ford has become, not only as an automotive company but as a technology one. This is why Ford has opened up research and innovation centers around the world these past few years. Then, in early 2015, Ford expanded the Research and Innovation Center in Silicon Valley to focus on connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience, and big data.
It was really a no-brainer that Ford started to think and behave like a technology company. Ford even runs the Silicon Valley research facility like a technology startup. Exit Ford the auto manufacture. Enter Ford the future thinking technology company.
Day 1 – Smart Mobility Highlights
Our first day started off with a keynote from Mark Fields, CEO of Ford. Ford recognizes that the world, at its current growth rate, will at some point have so many people that the very way we think about transportation will have to change. Ford also recognizes that many individuals (especially younger generations) don’t buy vehicles for the same reasons previous generations have. Thus Ford’s attention is on flexible use and ownership and is investing in multimodal urban transportation technology.
- Flexible Ownership Program via Peer-2-Peer Car Sharing
Research has shown that some younger customers would love to share the cost of vehicle ownership and that young Americans are open to ride sharing. So much so that the idea of ride sharing happens to be second only to book lending. Which is why a pilot program was created to allow customers a chance to rent their vehicles when they are not using them to offset their cost of ownership or just to make a little extra cash. Ford will be testing this program with 14,000 users in six U.S. cities and 12,000 users in London. Ford will be partnering with two mobile app companies, Getaround in the U.S. and easyCar Club in London.
- One Way Public Car Sharing via GoDrive
Many people only occasionally need a vehicle to get around, not to mention that owning a vehicle in some cities is extremely expensive or not practical because of congestion. Thus the GoDrive pilot program was launched solely in London.
This program is designed for one-way travelers and will initially service 2,000 customers with about 50 fleet cars strategically placed throughout London. The perks include guaranteed parking and a pay-as-you-go model. Programs like GoDrive is one day projected to be a $6 billion industry.
- Multimodal Transportation via Electric Bikes (Ford eBikes)
Sometimes a car just doesn’t make sense which is why Ford has recently launched its newest eBike, the MoDe:Flex. This eBike is designed to be versatile and can be tailored to the rider’s needs, depending on the type of riding the rider may see. It also is designed to be taken apart and to fit inside any Ford vehicle with relative ease. In conjunction with a new smartphone app (MoDe:Link) the rider can be provided with real-time information such as weather, traffic congestion, parking costs, time, traffic and public transportation. It also will include eyes-free navigation, route planning, and health and fitness information.
I hope you enjoyed this brief overview to Further with Ford 2015. In the next article we’ll go into more details on some of the trends and technology shaping Ford’s future.
Which of the above programs pique your interest?
** Thanks to Henry for covering this event for me.
Written By: Henry Lee
I was invited to a media event with all travel expenses covered. All opinions are that of the contributing author.