City of the Future and Ford Go Further Trend Conference #GoFurther
It turns out the Ford Motor Company cares about the Future of Los Angeles. And all cities, really. Ford employs a Futurist, and a significant part of their mission is looking ahead. This Summer I was a guest of the Ford Motor Company at a conference about the Future.
The #GoFurther with Ford Trend Conference was held in Dearborn, Michigan and I was among 250 bloggers and journalists in attendance. Ford has invested in the Future of Cities as well as the Future of Automobiles. The way Bill Ford, the Executive Chairman of Ford and the great-Grandson of Henry Ford, sees it, the cars Ford manufactures must be sustainably-produced and use the best and most sophisticated technology available. But beyond that, those cars need to exist in a Future that’s also sustainable.
To that end, Ford has entered into a 2-year alliance with ZipCars, since for many urban dwellers and Gen Y-ers, owning a car is prohibitively expensive and ultimately not necessary. Ford is now the largest automotive source in Zipcar’s University program which has vehicles at more than 250 university campuses across the U.S.
For Ford, that not only means an investment is sustainability, but also an investment in future customers. It’s smart business and “good” business.
Ford also imagines a City of the Future with smart density and fewer cars on the road, and has therefore invested in public transportation. Turns out New Yorkers have a longer life expectancy than Los Angelenos by about 3 years because of all the walking they do, so it could be that the City of the Future will be holding onto to us for a longer period of time!
The conference was jam-packed with information about Ford’s commitment to Quality with the demo of how they design the sound inside each vehicle, to High-Tech, with the demo of the coming-soon in-dash system for hands-free phone calling, texting and emailing, to Safety, with the also coming-soon sensors on the cars that will let you know when you drift out of your lane and into another, helping to prevent accidents from drowsy and/or distracted driving, and finally, to Green Tech, with their commitment to using renewable and sustainable materials wherever possible in their cars.
I was amazed to find out there are foam seat cushions made out of soybeans, floor mats made out of recycled denim, and “plastic” door parts made out of coconut husks. Ford has been an industry leader in creating these alternatives to fossil fuel products, and it turns out it may be chiefly because Bill Ford was at the helm.
When he took the reins at Ford, he was told, in no uncertain terms, to “stop associating with known environmentalists” (which he couldn’t, since he himself was one). However, once oil reached $100/barrel, the once small “Green” department he had championed for years was given a mandate to grow. Hence the soybean seats.
The Conference was a fantastic opportunity to learn about the workings of an icon of American business, and to get a glimpse at the mission they see for themselves going forward.
It was also a ridiculously fun couple of days, where I was able to get out on the test track in a bunch of Fords that were fun to drive, I got onto the 50-yard line at Ford Field, I went to my first TechShop event, and I got to meet Scott Monty. I’m grateful to have been invited.