According to Bill Ford, great grandson of Henry Ford, the “average driver in Beijing has a 5 hour commute.” And “last summer, there was a 100 mile traffic jam that took 11 days to clear in China.”
That’s a worldwide problem.
It’s anticipated that by 2050, with an increase in population to 9 billion people, there will also be an increase in cars from the current 800 million to 2 – 4 billion. And that could only mean more time spent in traffic jams and subsequently much longer commutes. So how is Bill Ford proposing we solve this problem? Ford envisions smarter cars to go along with smart roads, smart parking, and overall smarter transportation systems that are integrated to use real time data to obtain greater efficiency. In other words, he wants transportation systems and parking facilities to be able to communicate directly with your car. And for cars to communicate among themselves. This almost sounds like a Disney movie, but not far out of reach. For instance, if you’re on your way to see a play in whatever downtown city you live in, your vehicle would be able to reserve a parking spot ahead of time. If the vehicle ahead of you is coming up to a traffic jam, it would alert your vehicle, which could then calculate an alternate route before it too becomes part of the jam. Ford believes much of our fuel inefficiency is spent simply looking for parking – and idling in traffic. He calls this movement ‘the connected car network.’
Car manufacturers may benefit from making even smarter cars by way of sales. So in that sense, there is the business will for these vehicles to be built into the future. But unless entire transportation systems are improved and built to meet future and current demands on a public level, what good will any of this do? We will still have more cars and more people spilling over into less and less space. Governments at all levels need to establish the political will to get the job done when it comes to making transportation a priority.
Entire communities are separated by space. High tech communications aside, personal and business freedoms are still limited by movement. We are still a society that likes to do its living – in person – and a virtual reality can only take us so far. We want to breath the fresh air in the Colorado mountains in person. We want to visit with far off friends and families – in person. Many of us rely on jobs a distance away from our homes that we still need to get to in person. We want the freedom to explore, do business, travel – all in person. But we also want to breath easy (literally) when we get there.