The world is getting more and more connected each day. High speed internet pervades our lives in ways we aren’t always aware of. Naturally, the car would want to get in on the action as well. And more than just hooking up your phone via Bluetooth, Ford’s idea goes beyond, and intends to make the car itself more intelligent without our intervention.
Enter Ford’s Smart Mobility Solutions, an initiative set up in partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology to research possible solutions to the traffic and congestion woes that plague urban areas as well as the carbon effect it has on the world at large. At CES Asia 2015 in Shanghai, Ford is showing off two of its most promising projects: Remote Repositioning and Parking Spotter.
The experiment that spearheaded Remote Repositioning consisted of a Georgia Tech-owned golf cart, a few cameras placed at strategic points, and a high speed LTE data connection. This allows the cart to be driven remotely by a driver via a station that is similar looking to the kind of racing games found at arcades.
Once perfected, the implications could be far-reaching, allowing for the repositioning of cars from their original location to where they need to be for its next customer/driver, such as in a case for a car sharing program. This alleviates the need for a third driver as well as the cost of that driver’s own transportation to and from the car’s location.
Valet parking could also be drastically altered and streamlined through this technology, negating the need for a large team of valet parkers on standby. A car would simply pull up to the valet station, and once the driver exits, would relinquish control to park itself in a designated space without anyone else entering the car. All this would lead to valet parking services being far cheaper and also more widely available.
This one is slightly more ambitious in some ways. Because cars can be fitted with an array of sensors – indeed, many already are – that make it aware of its most immediate surroundings, it can collect data to feed a cloud repository that catalogues parking spaces.
Should a car equipped with these special sonar and radar sensor arrays, one that is parked cars can determine if there are parking spaces in its vicinity. And at speeds of 16km/h or less, moving cars can act as probes to map out available parking bays. Drivers who are then on the prowl for parking spaces can tap into this resource and make a judgement about whether to enter a specific parking lot or to search elsewhere.
“The mobility experiments are great examples of how Ford is rethinking innovation in this technological age,” said Jim Buczkowski, director, Electrical and Electronics Systems, Research and Advanced Engineering, Ford Motor Company. “Both of these projects as displayed as CES Asia are using existing technologies in new ways, and pushing the limits of what we can do to go further in improving mobility for all.”
In dense urban areas, parking efficiency will increase, congestion will decrease and C02 emissions from cars in gridlocks or parking lot jams will be reduced greatly. However, this future vision hits a proverbial roadblock when competing car companies have their own proprietary system for parking lot searching or a different use for proximity sensing on cars. Unless Ford convinces other manufacturers to throw in with Parking Spotter, this solution might not gain enough critical mass to actually be useful to drivers. After all, not everyone drives a Ford.
There's just something about cars. It's a conveyance, it's a liability, it's a tool; but it can also be a source of joy, pride, inspiration and passion. It's much like clothes versus fashion. And like the latter, the pursuit of perfection never ends.