Bill Ford at TED 2011: The Issue of Global Gridlock
[Background: Below is a summary of the presentation Bill Ford, Ford Motor Company executive chairman, gave at TED 2011 in Long Beach, Calif. A transcript of the remarks and a link to the video presentation also are available.]
Bill Ford believes sustainability is the biggest issue facing business in the 21st century. While breakthroughs made in recent years have made him confident that technology will provide a solution to the CO2 challenge, another issue – “Global Gridlock” – is quietly taking its place.
The problem can be defined by numbers. The world’s population is growing and is becoming more affluent. There are approximately 6.8 billion people in the world today. Within our lifetime, that number will approach 9 billion. Today, there are about 800 million vehicles on the road worldwide but by mid-century that number could grow to between 2 and 4 billion.
If we continue to follow the personal mobility model that is now in place the world’s roads are going to become too crowded. Commutes will become longer; traffic jams will become larger and more ubiquitous. Economic opportunity will be stifled. More time and resources will be squandered while people try to get from point A to point B. This all threatens the promises of both physical and social mobility which in turn lessens opportunities to improve the world’s standards of living.
There’s no single answer to this new threat to our mobility, and it isn’t going to be solved by one person or group. It’s going to take corporations, entrepreneurs, NGOs, universities, governments and other interested parties all working together to build a global, interconnected system of transportation and mobility solutions. Smart businesses, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists will see this as a tremendous opportunity and a job creator.
Cars, of course, will always be a major mobility enabler, but they will need to better work in harmony with other cars and other forms of transportation. We need smart cars and smart infrastructure that communicate and use real-time data to maximize their efficiency. We also need to tie in innovative solutions like new, ground up development models (city of Masdar), traffic management (34th St. in Manhattan) and smart parking. The good news is that progress is being made on all of these fronts.
At Ford, we are rapidly expanding our commitment to intelligent cars that can wirelessly talk to each other to help make driving safer, more efficient and more enjoyable. We’re doubling our intelligent vehicle investment in 2011, and we’ve initiated a new 20-member task force of scientists and engineers to explore the technology’s broader possibilities.
Just as we all embraced the green energy challenge, we must now start attacking global gridlock with the same passion. We are starting to make progress, but we’ve got a long way to go.
Bill Ford discussed the issue of global gridlock at TED 2011 in Long Beach, Calif. To view his presentation, click here.