Record sales in developing regions, the new 2015 Mustang GT 500 and an amazing glimpse at the future of the Ford Motor Company are some of the things I learned about on my recent visit to their World Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.
The last few years have been rough on the auto industry as a whole. Many of the car companies in the US have had to sell divisions and even ask for a bailout from the government. Ford may have had to pair down by a few subsidiaries, but they never took a bailout. That’s what makes covering this company so interesting.
Ford Motor Company 2014 Trends Panel Discussion 1
Looking towards the future at Ford is much more than about how they maximize fuel efficiency, or create one of the best hybrid systems or even how they build assistive driving technologies. Ford’s blueprint for mobility unveiled at last year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain looks to what transportation and technology will look like in 2025 and beyond.
Ford Motor Company 2014 Trends Panel Discussion 2
I was lucky enough to score a spot in the Connected Car session at this Ford Trends event. It was full by the time everyone arrived at the Dearbon Development Center on the Ford Dearborn Proving Grounds, across from the Henry Ford Museum.
Ford Motor Company 2014 Trends Panel Discussion 3
The first part of the session was in a classroom type setting with an overview of what we would see out on the test track. I was unaware that this session was hands-on, so that made it more exciting.
Ford Motor Company Year 2013 Auto Sales & 2014 NAIAS North American International Auto Show Preview
My group was actually able to drive production and test vehicles with technology of today and tomorrow. Current technology in several 2013 Ford vehicles helped to adjust my trajectory back into the proper lane after drifting out of it while adaptive cruise control altered my speed automatically based on the vehicle in front of me. Yet unreleased technology on a Ford Focus used sensors around the car with specialized software to avoid a stopped car in our lane by veering around it after calculating which side was the safest to do so.
All of Ford’s technologies I saw working together should make the roadways of the future even safer than they are today. And that’s with human drivers. In Apple like presentation magic, Ford had “just one more thing” to introduce.
Ford Fusion Hybrid With LiDAR
Thankfully, I was seated near the front and center of the stage. All of a sudden a door opened up, which I had not noticed and a white Ford Fusion Hybrid rolled out with four rotating silver scanners on top. Those silver scanners turned out to be from Velodyne and are the HDL-32E model.
Each scanner features 32 lasers across a 40-degree vertical field of view. It delivers a 360-degree horizontal field of view and generates a point cloud of 700,000 points per second with a range of 70 meters with an accuracy of +/- of 2 centimeters.
Raj Nair from Ford with the Ford Fusion Hybrid Research Vehicle
That’s tech speak for a small but accurate 3D mapping solution that produces a live image around the car for the autonomous driving system. The scanners are sensitive enough to know the difference between a paper bag and a small animal at about a football field away.
Ford Fusion Hybrid Research Vehicle Overview
Ford is working with the University of Michigan and the State Farm Insurance Company to continue their research for the next few years to come up with a reliable driverless solution.
Ford Fusion Hybrid Research Vehicle With LiDAR Walk Around
The blueprint for mobility at Ford is all about including technology that’s available today, developing vehicle-to-vehicle communications and some autopilot capabilities in the mid-term and in the long-term a fully autonomous navigation and parking system.
If I had not experienced some of Ford’s technology on their test track, I would have been quite skeptical about how far they have come. The adaptive cruise-control system that slows the car down took me by surprise. Instinct had me wanting to hit the break well before I came within a comfortable distance of the car ahead doing 55 mph. But the system worked flawlessly each time. The lane drifting system worked ok, but the high amount of salt and angle of the sun kept it from working 100 percent of the time. With additional research, this technology will mature to the point of autonomy.
I’m excited to see what the Ford Motor Company produces in the future. They are hiring several thousand new people in 2014 and a large percentage of them will be engineers working on the blueprint for mobility.
2015 Ford Mustang GT 500
And now it’s time for something completely different as they say. The Colbert Report’s recent interview with the CEO of the Ford Motor Company, Alan Mulally.
The Colbert Report
Scott Monty The Global Head of Ford Motor Company Social Media
My complete coverage via 24kMedia of the 2013 SEMA Show.
2013 SEMA Show In Las Vegas, Ford Booth Tour and Press Event
Disclaimer: The Ford Motor Company provided my travel and accommodations to cover their announcements in Dearborn, Michigan. All opinions and experiences expressed here are my own.