The annual Further With Ford conference is all about what the company is doing to stay relevant in a changing world. In this year’s keynote speech, CEO Mark Fields talked about what the company sees as some of today’s most important trends, and how they inspired several research projects that have now graduated to pilot programs.
More and more people will be living in megacities, and these folks aren’t likely to have quite the same relationships to their cars that earlier generations have. One trend that’s being talked about a lot, especially here in San Francisco, where Uber and Airbnb rule, is that millennials don’t necessarily feel the need to own cars – they want the flexibility to use them when and where it’s convenient. With this in mind, Ford has been testing a car-sharing service in London that features plug-in vehicles. It has found that drivers enjoy being able to choose an EV – and they absolutely love having a guaranteed parking space in the crowded capital.
Another aspect of city life is what Ford calls by the delightful buzzterm “multimodal urban mobility solutions.” For many urban dwellers, driving all the way from the home to the workplace isn’t an attractive option, so the daily commute may involve a car, a train, a bus – and perhaps a bike. Ford has developed a new family of electric bicycles called MoDe, which can fold up and fit into “any Ford vehicle.”
A companion cloud-connected smartphone app (of course) enables all kinds of futuristic features. Tell the bike your destination, and it will safely guide you there, using vibrating handlebars to tell you when to turn left or right. The “no sweat” feature measures your heart rate as you ride, and knows when to dial in just the right amount of electric-motor assist to keep your shirt dry.
I did get a chance to ask Mr. Fields the big question that’s on every EVangelist’s mind: Does Ford have a new generation of EVs on the test track? “Nothing that we can talk about now,” said he with a sly smile.