Ford CEO Mark Fields today unveils the new Kuga SUV and will confirm Ford’s SYNC 3 connectivity technology is coming to Europe and commit to tripling Ford’s engineering investment in semi-autonomous vehicle technologies as the company continues to expand its Ford Smart Mobility plan.
Fields’ keynote at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona will focus on Ford’s transition from an automotive company to an auto and a mobility company through Ford Smart Mobility – the company’s plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience, and data and analytics.
Fields will also confirm FordPass, the company’s new customer experience platform, debuts this year in Europe. New partners for FordPass include BP and Mobile City, a leading mobile parking payment company. FordPass also will integrate Ford Carsharing, run with Germany’s Flinkster Carsharing.
“As we look to the future, it is clear we are on the cusp of a revolution in mobility – from car sharing to autonomous driving to the customer experience,” Fields said. “Technology and innovation provide us with the opportunity to address these trends and to make people’s lives better by changing the way the world moves.”
The sophisticated new Kuga will offer technologies and updates to make driving simpler, safer, more enjoyable and more affordable. These include Ford’s new SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system, innovative driver assistance technologies, an ergonomic and comfortable interior and a new 120 PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine.
The bold and sporty new Kuga that debuts at Mobile World Congress also will offer Ford’s Perpendicular Parking technology that helps drivers park hands-free in spaces alongside other cars; an enhanced version of the Active City Stop collision avoidance system; and Ford’s Adaptive Front Lighting System for optimised visibility in low light. Further sophisticated technologies include Hands-Free Liftgate and Ford Intelligent All Wheel Drive.
Ford is tripling its driver assist technology engineering investment to make it easier to drive in heavy traffic and park, while developing fully autonomous vehicles for the future. The significant increase in investment announced today will enable Ford to research and develop driver assist technology that transfer more driving tasks to the vehicle and provide more comfort and safety to the driver.
These will include Traffic Jam Assist and Fully Active Park Assist that Fields announced Ford will roll out in the next three years.
Ford is taking two distinct pathways toward vehicle automation. First, the company has a dedicated team developing driver assist technology that is focused on delivering increasing levels of automation.
Traffic Jam Assist helps the driver with steering, braking and acceleration in heavily congested traffic situations on motorways. Easily activated by pushing a button, the system helps keep the vehicle centred in the lane and brakes and accelerates to keep pace with the vehicle in front.
Fully Active Park Assist will help drivers by steering and controlling the transmission, throttle and brake to seamlessly pull into a parking spot at the touch of a button.
Further semi-autonomous technologies already introduced by Ford include Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, a camera- and radar-based system that detects vehicles and people in the road ahead; and Intelligent Speed Limiter, which could help prevent drivers from exceeding speed limits, and potentially from incurring costly speeding penalties.
“The use of semi-autonomous functions such as Traffic Jam Assist and Fully Active Park Assist make driving easier and more enjoyable for our customers,” said Ken Washington, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.
As for the future, Ford also has a dedicated fully autonomous vehicle programme in Aachen, Germany, and in Palo Alto, California, and Dearborn, Michigan, in the U.S., with more than a decade of experience.
Ford is seeking to deliver autonomous capability that does not require driver input described by the SAE International as Level 4 of automation. At this level of capability, autonomous vehicles will likely be offered first in climates that support optimal sensor performance and in areas that have been mapped in high resolution 3D.
Already, Ford is the first automaker to test fully autonomous vehicles in winter weather, including snow, and recently announced plans to triple the company’s autonomous vehicle development fleet making it the largest of all automakers.
“We are committed to making autonomous vehicles available for millions of people,” Washington said. “Within well-defined areas and with favourable environmental conditions, we predict that fully autonomous driving will be possible within four years, and that autonomous vehicles will play a significant role in making travel safer, more enjoyable, and more accessible.”
A new customer experience
FordPass features four elements. A Marketplace offering access to mobility services and partners; trusted and knowledgeable FordGuides who are always there to help members to resolve mobility challenges; Appreciation, where members are recognised for their loyalty; and FordHubs, where consumers can experience new innovations.*
Through FordPass owners will be able to manage their vehicle, including scheduling maintenance services. The partnerships announced today will bring significant benefits to FordPass members as follows:
- The partnership with BP will reward members with exclusive offers and geolocation services, adding to loyalty partners including McDonalds and 7-Eleven. In the future, FordPass may enable members to search for nearby BP locations based on facilities available. Ford and BP can envision helping members to fill up at the right time and in the right place. This might for example include members remaining comfortable inside a vehicle and not stand outside in the cold or the heat, while a robot does the refuelling
- Through its existing partnership with Flinkster, one of the biggest car sharing companies in Germany incorporating dealerships, FordPass will offer 24-hour access to more than 4,000 cars country-wide. This includes Ford Carsharing’s fleet of 190 vehicles, from Transit to Fiesta, and Flinkster’s own fleet of cars, most of which are Ford vehicles
- Parkopedia, the global database for parking spaces, allows all FordPass members to search for parking, based on location, cost, availability and user ratings. In addition, as an on-street parking payment provider, Mobile City will help to provide a more seamless parking experience by enabling drivers to pay fees through FordPass . That could mean no need to keep coins, or for the right change, and beyond that – supporting a future that could see members’ cars park themselves in off-street facilities
“This all-new platform that we are launching in Europe later this year is really about listening to people’s needs and developing ways to help them move better. It’s also about convenience, connecting consumers with the world and making it all incredibly easy,” Fields said.
Mobility – new ways of getting about
As part of Ford Smart Mobility, the company is working to expand the range of car-sharing and parking services offered in European cities and towns.
In London, with its new GoPark pilot, Ford is building a predictive parking system – capable of directing drivers to streets where they’re most likely to find a space. A group of residents from the borough of Islington have volunteered to take part – with their cars being equipped with plug-in devices to give live data for traffic and parking conditions. The pilot includes both Ford and non-Ford vehicles.
Also in London, Ford’s on-demand GoDrive car-sharing pilot is now trialling on-street parking on certain streets. Since launching last year, the service has expanded to 25 hubs across the city, each with guaranteed parking, at locations that include London Waterloo railway station and London City Airport.
In Germany, bookings for Ford Carsharing, designed to serve small and medium sized cities, as well as large towns, were up by 76 per cent in 2015, with customers already driving more than 1 million kilometres in total during the year. The service is offered by Ford Germany and their dealers with 170 Ford Carsharing stations all over Germany.
Connectivity, data and analytics
Ford also at Mobile World Congress today demonstrates on new Kuga for the first time in Europe its new SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system. SYNC 3 allows drivers to control audio, navigation, and climate functions plus connected smartphones using simple, conversational voice commands.
The company is announcing new apps for the system that can be voice-activated using SYNC AppLink, and include enabling drivers to earn money by transporting packages. The MyBoxMan app enables drivers delivering a package for others to earn around €5-8 for a typical five kilometre journey.**
Ford will on Feb. 24 at Mobile World Congress announce the winners of the Ford Smart Mobility Game Challenge. Developed with Cologne Game Lab and launched last year at Gamescom, the largest interactive games trade fair in Europe, the Ford Smart Mobility Game Challenge invited developers to create game concepts that could solve real-life problems in urban mobility