Ford and Silicon Valley-based Autonomic will work together to build a new open platform upon which cities can build out infrastructure communications, including connected traffic lights and parking spots, called the “Transportation Mobility Cloud.” Ford CEO Jim Hackett announced the news on Monday at the CES 2018 keynote kicking off the annual conference.
The platform is designed to help connect smart transportation services, as well as adjacent connected offerings, uniting them with one common language to help coordinate all this efforts in real-time. That means tying together personal cars with vehicle-to-everything communications built in, incorporating things like bike sharing networks, public and private transportation services, including buses, trains, ride hailing and beyond.
The Transportation Mobility Cloud will support location-based services, determining routes, sending out alerts about things like service disruptions, handing identity management and payment processing, as well as dealing with data gather and analytics. It’s intended not only as a kind of connective tissue for the forward-thinking services and vehicles that will make up the smart city of tomorrow, but also as a platform upon which new apps and services can be built from the heath of data available.
Ford says to think of it like “a box of Legos” with pieces that can be quickly taken apart and reassembled to build new types of assets and products to better serve city residents. It’s intended to be flexible enough to work with all partners, and to change from city-to-city depending on local requirements and implementation specifications.
In a blog post detailing the news, Ford suggests some possible uses to illustrate what the platform could do, including routing autonomous vehicles away from the most densely clogged arteries occupied by human cars in times of peak traffic, and rerouting cars on the fly to help reduce congestion, or even letting cities fence off ares of the city to restrict them to EV only zones in order to help mitigate air quality and emissions issues.
Ford stresses that it has designed this platform “for everyone,” a road base group that includes transit service operators, as well as competitor automakers, who it invites to join in with the effort in order to help make it as widely compatible as possible. Ford says it hopes to use its open approach to drive adoption to the point where it can claim to be the smart city platform with the most connected vehicles by the end of 2019, and eventually it hopes to achieve a 100 percent compatibility rate with vehicles and services on the road.
It’s a massive undertaking, but if successful, it could pave the way to cities better able to launch and incorporate Ford’s growing stable of mobility service offerings, including things like last mile shared commute service Chariot, as wells Ford GoBike and its forthcoming autonomous ride hailing fleets. Teaming with Autonomic, a company that Ford invested in last year, will help it ramp quickly since the Palo Alto company’s staff has lots of experience building platforms intended for integration on a broad scale, including Amazon Web Services.
Part of the promise of ride-hailing has been that it would reduce congestion in cities – but studies show the opposite is true, which Ford says it hopes to help correct with a platform like that which can help optimize their rollout and integration into existing services and traffic flows.