Mike Shulman is a patient man. The technical leader in Ford’s Active Safety Research and Innovation department realizes that the innovations making Ford a leader in technology don’t happen overnight. He knows firsthand just how much time and effort it takes to bring them to fruition.
He also knows it’s worth it.
“I think the research and innovation group is one of the most exciting places in the automotive industry because we’re working on the future of personal transportation,” says Shulman, who joined Ford in 1976, soon after receiving his juris doctor in physics from Brandeis University in Massachusetts. “There is just so much new technology now being developed around the world, and the excitement of bringing that into an automotive environment presents rewarding challenges.”
Shulman is helping Ford, the auto industry and the government to develop advanced wireless technologies that will allow intelligent vehicles to talk to each other through a Wi-Fi-like radio network. These “conversations” could lead to vehicles warning drivers of potential crashes. Ford is the first automaker to build dedicated vehicles to demonstrate the technology.
Shulman and his team have been working on the technology behind intelligent vehicles since 2002. While he realizes the idea of cars communicating with each other may seem farfetched to some, Shulman describes it as simply the next step in wireless technology.
“People talk about intelligent vehicles, or cars talking to each other, like it’s something out of The Jetsons,” he says, laughing. “But it shouldn’t sound like science fiction. We have laptops that use Wi-Fi. So why shouldn’t our cars have it? Mostly, the cars will be sending messages to each other and people won’t even know about it except on the rare occasions when they need it, when they need a warning or help understanding what’s going on around their vehicle.”
Shulman serves as program manager of the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership (CAMP), a group of engineers from eight car companies working together to agree on the messages that the vehicles will send to each other and determine the basis for the standards.
Shulman is confident that the potential far outweighs any challenges.
“There are so many ways intelligent vehicles could make driving better,” he says. “Safety is the real driver.
“I work in Active Safety, and this means avoiding a crash. We think this will be the next big breakthrough in safety because we’ll be providing so much more information to our vehicles to understand what is going on around them. And to me, that’s really exciting.”
But there could be major environmental benefits, too, as some estimate that nearly 4 billion gallons of gas are wasted each year on American roads.
”You could imagine that intelligent vehicles could tell each other about traffic jams so approaching vehicles could suggest less congested routes to their drivers,” said Shulman.
Of course, Shulman doesn’t spend all his time working. When he’s not adapting technologies at Ford, he can likely be found out and about Ann Arbor with his wife, Kathleen. The two live close enough to the city to enjoy the arts and culture that a college community provides, but far enough away to spend time enjoying the trails or working in their garden.
“You wouldn’t know it with the weather we’ve been having lately, but sometimes it’s just really nice to get outside,” he says. “You can get out on those trails and just enjoy the nature that’s all around you.”
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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 164,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.
Jan. 27, 2011