The Ford “City Of Tomorrow” Symposium #BusinessBreakfast

Delhi. 20 Sept 2017

The conference looked at how to improve transport in the cities of tomorrow – not so much from an individual car perspective, but more from a societal perspective; a town planning and architectural point of view, and how it might affect our lifestyles going forward.

And of course the cost of slower and slower car and truck journeys on the valuable time taken out of lives, and its detriment to the economy. Also the extra expended fuel and its effect on our health and the surroundings.

They didn’t touch so much on population control as that’s a political subject.

Some of the subjects covered:

Raj Rao CEO of Ford’s Smart Mobility program:

Looked at Delhi and Mumbai’s traffic as study cases, where short car journeys can take hours, and saw traffic and mobility issues as a restraining influence on social development and the economy. So he came up with the maxim “Liberate the Human Journey”, to drive Ford’s search for a solution.

He stressed that he sees the future as a quest for ‘mobility through the use of technology’. And some of the areas which he touched on included:

  • We’ll see a greater number of Public Private Partnerships with towns, states and countries. Ford recently partnered with Indore city, signing a memorandum of understanding to work together to address and realign their transportation issues, and the company is currently in talks with the Maharashtra Chief Minister for improving the transport systems in that State, which of course includes Mumbai.
  • Shared rides and transport will be a lot more prevalent.
  • Which will lead to greater usage of individual cars! Cars are currently used around 4 hours a day on average. Raj sees them running 18 hours a day plus in future. He gave the example of planes which don’t sit wasting time on the ground. They’re in/out with regular servicing.
  • As will use of mobile phones in the future of transport: for calling for cars for shared use, and as an integral part of the running of a vehicle.
  • Joined-up transport solutions are the way forward in every city globally: trains/metro/buses/shared transport all need to dovetail to get people to fully use them.
  • Says “Mobility is Freedom”, but policy shifts by government are needed to make it happen, both in road planning and the move to electric.
  • India is expecting 4 times as many vehicles on the roads by 2030! 

Sheryl Connelly, Manager, Global Consumer Trends and Futuring, Ford Motor Company

70% of the world’s population live on 2% of the world’s surface.

Smart cities cannot happen without reliable, complete, unadulterated information on car usage, journey times, population trends.

The panellists she shared the stage with were sceptical that government bodies would share information with each other and the private sector!

Sheryl says cars are in Ford’s past, present and future, but the company accepts that they’re not always the best solution!

Amitabh Kant. CEO of NITI AAYOG – the National Institution for Transforming India’s traffic

Estimated that India loses $23 billion a year from the economy because of delays on the country’s roads.

 7% of India’s GDP comes from the automotive industry and transport.

 In the next 50 years India will urbanise more than it has in the last 5,000 years.

 That’s just as China, the US and Europe are coming to an end of urbanisation cycle.

 Says India has 3 advantages in reforming its transport.

  1. 80% of automotive journeys are short: less than 5kms long
  2. In the country overall there’s very low car usage; most people can only aspire
  3. Strong movement in India to use solar power, battery storage and smart metering

The Delhi Metro has proved “aspirational” for other Indian cities (of which there are about 70 of over a million people). Even the shipbuilding hub of Calicut in Kerala wants one!

Says the recycling of batteries is just about the most important question from an environmental standpoint. Says multiple use of batteries is essential, so that when they end their automotive life they are recycled into domestic use, to power homes or offices.

 Says “Battery Dichotomy” is a powerful part of the equation.

 Believes the government should be capturing some of the capital growth on land and property in the country and reinvested in transport.

TED speakers:

Wanis Kabbaj – Director of Global Strategy for Healthcare Logistics at UPS

  • Detachable buses are currently being tested in Dubai, where pods will break away from a chain of moving pods to deliver you right to your destination.
  • Traffic will be “functionally exuberant”, and organic – controlled by complex algorithms.

Mitch Joachim – a leader in ecological design and urbanism. He is a co-founder of Terreform ONE and Terrefuge, and is on the faculty at Columbia University and Parsons. Formerly he was an architect at Gehry Partners. His thoughts include: Soft cars, jet packs and houses made of meat.

  • Prefers the term “Socio-Ecological City” to “Smart City”
  • Sees rivers running when roads now run.
  • Food & vegetation growing up the sides of buildings, and farmed in derelict buildings.
  • Small pod cars made of soft materials (eg wool/rubber) called “Hug & Kiss” cars that are designed to be OK when bumping into each other.
  • Giant floating pods with multiple seats hanging below them that will transport you a few blocks.
  • Would like to see us growing our own homes by shaping trees as they grow into giant nests in the shape of houses. (says if we’re patient enough to wait 12 years for certain products to mature, why not your own home).
  • Farming crickets for food, to milled into edible flour (similar to Jason Drew at Agri-protein down in South Africa, whose been on the show a few times. He’s milling maggots for feed).


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