Bill Ford Junior may not seem to be the obvious choice to deliver the closing keynote for day one of MWC 2012, but he did.
Raising and addressing the issue of global gridlock, Ford spoke of his company's admiration for mobile tech and confidence in its ability to solve the future transport issues that the world faces.
"Right now there are a billion cars on the road – by 2050 there will be over 4 billion. We have a real need for a connected network in which the automobile is just one element," he told attendees.
So where does tech come in? "Smaller cars, smart parking, payment systems, car sharing and unexpected collaborations and investments," that's where.
But that's just in the near future. Ford's vision, dubbed its Blueprint for Mobility, takes in a lot of ideas that will, the company hopes, work together to create a kind of utopian road network by 2050.
"We see a future where there are cars that communicate with each other and the world around them to make them safer and more efficient," explained Ford. "A smart system that ties all modes of transportation into a single network, and that includes pedestrian walkways, busses, planes, trains and automobiles all fully optimised and working together."
The company has a timescale in mind. "In the near term, existing vehicle tech will continue to improve; for example maps will provide better driver information; mobile communications and driver interfaces will become more intuitive with alerts to traffic jams and accidents."
Alluding to tests already underway – not least by Google in the US – Ford Jr went on to talk about self-driving cars which will play a big role in future.
"We'll see some limited autonomous functions for slow moving traffic. These will improve and expand in functionality. Vehicles will be able to talk to one another."
Meanwhile, by 2025 Ford believes we'll see more of a car-communications network. As cars are able to "talk" to one another, there'll be more and more driverless potential:
"In the mid term, the amount of data flowing from to and between cars will increase drastically. There'll be vehicle to vehicle infrastructure which allows for more complicated semi-autonomous functions like autopilot and lane changing and exiting.
By 2050 – 'mid century' – it'll be a very different world. Ford forsees 4 billion cars on the roads but in a connected system that pretty much drive themselves.
"Automobiles will look very different to what it does today. We'll see cars able to navigate complex systems on their own - autonomous valet.
"Gridlock in urban centres will be dramatically reduced with environmental gains as well."
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