The City of Tomorrow conference by Ford put the spotlight on the theme of mobility needs and their implications for the future development of cities.
Can you imagine what living in a major city like New Delhi, Shanghai, Bangkok or Sydney would be like in 2040? It may be 23 years in the future and our advancements in the reality of time travel may be limited, but advances in technologies like virtual reality make it possible to get a “realistic experience” of what the future holds.
Seated in a chair with a VR headset strapped to my face and speakers covering my ears, I marvelled at the visuals of intricate highways with autonomous cars and futuristic high-rise buildings. While experiencing mild bouts of motion sickness as I was flown around the city, in what appeared to be a 'flying taxi', I was at Ford India’s Experience Zone at an event aptly titled ‘City of Tomorrow’.
For the first time in Asia, Ford Motor Company recently held a day-long symposium in New Delhi to explore new ways of making our cities work better in the future through the innovative use of technology and collaboration between the public and private sectors.The symposium saw a mix of sessions from opinion leaders, academics, innovators, policymakers, and TED fellows who shared their views and ideas on how to create a better tomorrow.
Ford Smart Mobility, a subsidiary of Ford established in 2016, designs, builds, grows and invests in emerging mobility services. The subsidiary is gearing up to expand its initiatives in Asia by partnering with cities like Indore, India, and Nanjing, China, to explore new mobility solutions. Rajendra Rao, CEO, Ford Smart Mobility, engaged in a conversation with Amitabh Kant, CEO NITI Aayog in a session moderated by Shereen Bahn, Managing Editor of CNBC-TV18.
“The transportation models that exist around the world today will not work tomorrow. Ford has an aspiration that urban transport systems will be free from congestion, rich in choices, and provide mobility for all,” said Rajendra Rao, CEO, Ford Smart Mobility LLC. “Breakthrough solutions are needed to achieve these. Getting there will require a leap in our collective thinking, working with cities, and partners who are agents of change.”
Amitabh Kant, CEO - NITI Ayog, added that forums like the City of Tomorrow would be crucial in kick-starting conversations that will help find solutions for the difficult issues our cities will face in the coming years. He said,
By 2025, the price of an electric vehicle will start matching the price of a combustion vehicle. Globally, 42 percent of the cars being sold will be electric vehicles and this will have an impact on India.
Amitabh Kant also believes that the year 2030 will be the tipping point because battery cost will come down from $273 to $73. By 2040, electric cars on the road are likely to replace internal combustion engines.
Different sessions during 'The City of Tomorrow' conference covered discussions around the theme of mobility needs and their implications for the future development of cities.
Thought leaders participating in panel discussions included Ford’s Global Trend Manager and Futurist Sheryl Connelly; Ford Asia-Pacific Business Strategy Executive Director Jeffrey Jones; NASSCOM’s Raman Roy; leading smarter cities consultant Antoni Vives; Zoomcar CEO Greg Moran and Boston Consulting Group’s Seema Bansal among other opinion leaders.
Stressing on inclusivity and impact, Sheryl Connelly noted,
There is so much to think about when it comes to the City of Tomorrow. Firstly, we need to remember that cities exist because of citizens. Hence they should be inclusive, diverse and dynamic. The future of cities needs to service everyone's needs without impacting cities themselves.
The City of Tomorrow reflects Ford’s long-term vision to help make people’s lives better by changing the way the world moves with world-class vehicles, mobility services and a wider range of transportation solutions. As part of this strategy, Ford recently partnered with the city of Indore, signing a memorandum of understanding to work together to address their most pressing transportation issues.
The goal of the proposed collaboration is to help the Indore public transport body manage its current and planned infrastructure through better implementation of technology and data analytics. In essence, Ford will support the development of custom city transportation solutions for improved mobility in the city.
Talking about future challenges that cities around the world are likely to face and need to tackle, Prakash Mallya, MD, Sales and Marketing Group, India said, “If I look at India, I can say that drastic urbanisation will happen - the population density in urban areas will increase dramatically.”
Weighing in on the discussion, Seema Bansal, Director of Boston Consulting Group, noted that smaller cities have a better chance to “reach the finish line” of becoming smart cities, before other metro cities. She said,
There is no single model for the city of tomorrow. Our smaller cities are starting out right now and can plan better as compared to largely populated cities like Delhi, which make them the ‘smart cities'.
Understanding that cities need solutions that help ease the critical issues they face today, Ford shared that it had already launched several, new smart mobility initiatives across Asia, including:
Dynamic shuttles: Ford’s on-demand shuttle experiments in Shanghai have built a foundation of designing and refining optimisation algorithms to improve transportation efficiency. In a partnership with authorities in the Nanjing Jiangning Development Zone, Ford will launch an enterprise shuttle program in Nanjing, China, that will offer dynamic optimised routes for employees of businesses operating in the development zone.
Later this year, Ford will also begin offering shuttle service pilots for employees at its Nanjing and Chennai campuses to improve commuter experiences.
Car sharing: In India, Ford has invested in Zoomcar, India’s leading car sharing company, as part of its expansion into the mobility space. Zoomcar was recognised as one of India’s most innovative companies by 'Fast Company' for revolutionising personal transportation to shared mobility to creatively utilise vehicles when idle.
Creative spaces: Since innovative approaches to mobility require new ways of thinking, Ford will open a new Smart Mobility Innovation Hub in Chennai, where an open-plan office will bring together Ford’s Global-Data-Insight-Analytics and Information Technology teams to harness creativity and explore new data-driven approaches to solving mobility problems.
Traffic management: In Vietnam, Ford will provide 50 traffic cameras for the Smart Camera System in Da Nang, which will enable authorities to collect data that will inform traffic management, heighten safety, and allow long-term planning.
Ford’s City Solutions team aims to constantly find ways to collaborate with authorities and citizens worldwide to help create cities that are greener, less congested and less polluted. Ford believes that only by valuing inclusivity and collaboration can a better City of Tomorrow – one that works for everyone - become a reality.