Ford eyes technology to improve efficiency, prevent traffic jamsAs automakers prepare for a burgeoning global population, they are increasingly investing in technologies that will help improve efficiency and allow for enhanced traffic navigation.

Ford Motor Group, which was the only member of the Big Three automakers to not receive a bailout from the federal government, hopes to keep its recent momentum through its coordinated investment in the research and development of technologies that will help cars navigate through even highly congested metropolitan areas.

Bill Ford Jr. spoke this week at the Mobile World Congress conference, affirming that while advances in technology have helped revolutionize the automaking sector, carmakers must adapt to a shifting global environment. Car companies have increased their presence in foreign nations, expanding their manufacturing and distribution networks as they endeavored to tap into the huge amounts of cash flowing to and from emerging economies.

The ever-changing world landscape has prompted Ford and its competitors to overhaul their supply chain management, and it is prompting an entirely new set of concerns among executives, Ford said. For example, the strategic sourcing of certain car components has become exceedingly critical in the wake of widespread shortages that erupted in 2011 following the shocks to Japan's economy.

Car companies were forced to quickly tweak their sweeping supply chains, reworking supplier contract negotiations and identifying new potential suppliers in the wake of procurement auditing. Ford cautioned carmakers must now develop new systems that will enable drivers to more easily navigate crowded metropolitan areas. Experts project the global population will continue to surge over the coming decades, with billions of people living in major urban centers such as New York City, Tokyo and Paris by the middle of the century.

"What I'm really worried about is the role of the car in the long-term," Ford asserted. "If we do nothing, it will limit the number of vehicles we can sell. If we can solve this problem of urban mobility, I think there's a great business opportunity for us."

In an effort to tap into the burgeoning middle classes of the world's emerging economies, Ford and other carmakers have unveiled newly-designed vehicle models that are highly fuel-efficient and significantly smaller than standard sedans.

Moreover, Ford is hoping to continue to work with telecommunications companies as it seeks to develop systems that will effectively enable vehicle systems to communicate with one another, helping allay traffic congestion. Daily Tech News reports that such smart road technology could shift how drivers interact with their cars, and it could also fuel future carmaker sales.

U.S. carmakers have been at the forefront of the movement to develop new technological advances in their model offerings, particularly in the wake of the near collapse of the domestic automobile sector. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler were all in dire financial straits in the lead-up to the recession, but the economic contraction simply decimated their finances, prompting the government to loan both GM and Chrysler billions of dollars in an attempt to stave off bankruptcy.

The three automakers have since charged back, but they have emerged as fundamentally different companies. GM, for example, has emphasized cost reduction initiatives in an effort to bolster profitability, while Chrysler and Ford have adopted procurement best practices and business cost reduction initiatives as they seek sustained growth.

Ford affirmed that the company's research and development team is confident that the development and strategic investment in next generation technologies will enable cars to drive exceptionally close to one another within 10 to 15 years. Advanced parking systems will also enable cars to more compactly fit in parking lots, further saving space and time. Realizing such goals, however, will take a coordinated effort, he said.

"Even if the technology is there, there's still going to have to be tremendous thought by urban planners," Ford noted. "That [driving] freedom has been threatened unless we redefine what personal mobility can be in a congested urbanized world."
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