The motoring innovations driving Ford into the future
There can be little debating the fact that we are currently going through something of a revolutionary phase in the history of car development. From the advent of self-driving cars to the rise of electric vehicles, there is so much going on in the world of automobile tech progress that it can be difficult just staying on top of all the latest news.
Whilst some of the most recent developments will definitely form an important part of how we drive on our roads in years to come, there are also a number of weird and wonderful innovations hitting the headlines which are slightly more dubious in terms of their long-term usefulness.
Perhaps one of the best examples of this is a story which you can explore in more detail by clicking on this link and watching the video which recently featured on the BBC News technology programme, Click.
This story saw journalist Dan Simmons travel to the Netherlands and try his hand at driving what is being described as the world’s first ‘biodegradable’ car. The unique vehicle, produced by a team from Eindhoven University of Technology, is primarily made from sugar beet and flax, and apparently only uses 20% of the energy needed to produce the aluminium and carbon fibre cars which we are all familiar with.
Despite its green credentials and having passed road safety tests, however, the video shows that the car is not yet a flawless drive, to say the least. As Simmons discovers, there are a number of drawbacks which could prevent the model from becoming a mainstream seller until quite a few improvements are made: the current top speed is between 50-55MPH, the reverse gear is described as ‘limited’, there is no radio and currently no air conditioning – a particular problem given that the windows don’t open!
Ford at the forefront
By contrast, the Ford Motor Company has been at the forefront of all manner of technological advancements which make a tangible difference to the driving experience ever since it produced the first Model T in 1908.
One of the most important recent demonstrations of this commitment to embracing pioneering technology was seen just a couple of months ago, when Jim Hackett (pictured above) was named Ford’s new CEO, as reported by the Guardian. This was seen as particularly significant because Hackett’s former post was as head of the company’s driverless car division, the ‘Smart Mobility’ unit.
Ford has been keen to position itself at the head of the autonomous car ‘revolution’, and the firm has spoken of its hope that it will be retailing a fully functional driverless vehicle by 2021. Whether or not this highly ambitious goal is met, Hackett’s appointment as Ford’s top executive is surely a strong indication that, far from scaling back their technological plans, the manufacturers are now keener than ever to forge ahead with their innovative approach to car making.
A few of Ford’s most eye-catching innovations
Despite being a headline-grabber, however, the autonomous car project is far from Ford’s only high tech venture of recent years. Below are details of some of what we think are the most exciting projects the manufacturer has been leading of late.
- Human machine interaction (HMI) – Whilst the name of this project may conjure up futuristic images of humans and robots working together, what it actually refers to is simply Ford’s ongoing commitment to integrating truly useful digital components into its cars and vans. Examples of the HMI team’s work include allowing drivers to customise the content and order of displays on their electronic dashboards, and ensuring Ford’s in-car entertainment systems constantly remain at the cutting-edge of what is available industry-wide.
- Research and development into electric batteries – Once regarded as nothing short of an ecological pipe dream, electric and hybrid vehicles are now regularly seen on our roads, with cars running on electric batteries and the charging points which they need becoming ever more common. In the last few years, Ford has been hard at work in this field, redoubling its efforts to become a major player in the electric car market. In January – as reported by Electrek – the company confirmed that its first all-electric vehicle, a 4X4 which will have a battery range of at least 300 miles, should be released in 2020.
- Project SUMURR – To give it its full name, the Sustainable Urban Mobility with Uncompromised Rural Reach project was an inspirational initiative carried out in conjunction with various universities and health bodies, which you can read more about on Ford’s corporate website. To summarise, this project involved equipping the Ford Endeavour truck with wireless technology so the vehicle could connect with health professionals in rural southern India. The aim was to improve the outcomes for pregnant women in an area where, due to poverty and poor transport links, the infant mortality rate is around 50%. The combination of the Endeavour’s rugged off-road capability and the very best in mobile technology led to 1,600 women and children being saved over the lifespan of the project.
- Freeform Fabrication Technology (F3T) – Although it may not be of huge interest to many drivers, the development of Ford’s ‘F3T’ fabrication system is having a big effect on the costs and efficiency of building new cars. This new method of fabricating sheet metal parts is allowing vehicle prototypes to be delivered in ultra-quick time at Ford’s main plant, and has the potential to save the company – and therefore its customers – millions if it can be deployed as part of the mass manufacturing process.
- Vehicle Harmony Group – This unique team based at Ford’s headquarters in Michigan, US, is dedicated to ensuring that the chimes and other alert noises which communicate with drivers do so in the most noticeable yet least intrusive way possible. The Vehicle Harmony Group works in the knowledge that there are now more signals built into cars than ever before – from lane departure warnings to blind spot alarms – and is committed to ensuring that Ford’s alerts always find their way into the driver’s consciousness in a world where digital noise seems to be increasing all the time.
So, as you can see, Ford is a company that is not exactly shirking its responsibilities when it comes to research and development. Why not book a test drive at your nearest Ford car dealer soon and see for yourself how their newest vehicles are filled with all the latest high-tech features to make your drive as smooth and enjoyable as possible?