BARCELONA: Ford has announced plans to increase its investment in driverless car technology and accelerate the spread of connected car systems.
Mark Fields, president and chief executive at Ford, explained at MWC 2016 in Barcelona that the company is pursuing the convergence of cars, connectivity and digital services.
“Transport we feel is on the cusp of revolution, and it’s inspiring a revolution at Ford. It’s about making people's lives better about the way the world moves,” he said.
“During the next five years we’re tripling our engineering investment in driver assist and semi-autonomous vehicle technology and accelerating availability to our customers.”
Fields revealed that Ford is building out its GoDrive pay-by-the-minute car hire and sharing service being trialled in London with a variant called GoPark.
“GoPark is a predictive parking system that can actually direct customers to a place where they're most likely to find a parking space,” he said.
“With their permission we are equipping the vehicles with plug-in devices to collect data as they come and go [between] parking spaces in a defined area.
“And by observing patterns and combining that data with city data on traffic and parking conditions, we will be able to actually predict available parking spots based on the time of day and location.”
Ford will trial service the service in the London Borough of Islington, while GoDrive is available across 25 London locations.
Ford is equally committed to autonomous and connected car systems for its latest models, rather than vehicles further ahead in the future.
“We’ve been focused on autonomous vehicles for more than a decade and this year we will have the largest test fleet of all automakers,” said Fields.
“At the same time we’re also absolutely committed to serving millions of customers today with automated technology to help them become better drivers.”
Fields highlighted Ford’s Traffic Jam, which automatically helps a driver with steering, braking and acceleration in heavily congested traffic on motorways, and Active Park Assist, which helps drivers pull into a parking spot at the touch of a button.
He also announced that the company's FordPass customer experience platform will debut in Europe this year, along with Sync 3, an infotainment system that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and receives over-the-air-updates courtesy of Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.
FordPass acts as a hub for a range of connected car services, such as remote locking, car sharing, vehicle location, guides and a services marketplace.
Ford will partner with BP to allow payments for fuel to be carried out with FordPass in return for reward points.
A major part of FordPass is FordGuides, a service that has real people offering a 24-hour service for FordPass members to help them with things such a reserving and paying for parking at the touch of a button.
“FordPass reimagines the entire customer experience and aims to do for the automotive industry what iTunes did for the music industry,” said Fields, noting that the system will be available to all and not just Ford drivers.
Ford appears to be becoming a car and technology company, particularly as it recently joined forces with IBM to accelerate how big data is used with cars.
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