The Future of Cars, and What Ford Has Up Its Sleeve

A Girls Guide To Cars | The Future Of Cars, And What Ford Has Up Its Sleeve - Agirlsguidetocars Logotype Color Web Transparentbg 16X9 1

Living in a world of accelerating change, that is, the more things change the faster the next change is upon us, means that change can be pretty hard to keep up with. Frustrating, even.

But don’t worry. Ford is lighting the path for you.

At a recent event, Ford turned out its top management, designers, engineers and some rock star future thinkers to map out the next era of Ford as a mobility company.

(Disclosure #1: Ford paid my expenses to attend its Trends conference. Disclosure #2: I would have paid to sit 15 feet from Steve Wozniak, Seth Godin, Rachel Shechtman, Anjali Kumar, Sherry Turkle and all the other brainiacs on stage to be able to soak up just an drop of their brilliance.)

Ford—a mobility company? Not a car company? Well, yes. Considering that our roads are more crowded (most places, anyway), our culture dearly embraces the ability to be mobile and we’re addicted to our phones and digital devices, Ford has invested a lot of brain power and design time not just on cars, but on systems that accommodate our mobile needs. All of them.

The driver of the future: Many of a connected
car’s functions will come through your phone;
top photo: Ford’s cloud-contected concept car,
Evos, will communicate seamlessly with your
devices, home and Ford
The Device-Distracted Driver: Just a Bump In the Road?

It’s a terrible truth: we can’t go too far from our devices. Another terrible truth is that we can’t go far without our cars. Now, ‘in car connectivity’ blends the two: much of what is loaded onto our devices is now available on in-car media consoles; our cars can use our devices to enhance the experience in the car and also and also feed information back to us.

Ford sees in-car technology as a blend of three functions: built in (media consoles and on-board computers), brought in (your phone or device and the functions you have loaded on to it) and beamed in (software that updates wirelessly and information from satellites like live traffic maps and radio). With these three functions, cars will be able to assist our needs seamlessly, and with less distraction.

Future Shock: Some Now, More On The Way
Among the innovations that are in their infancy in cars now and are being developed are:

Navigation that responds to the driver in a more human way: Ford’s navigation maps are already pretty darn good; clear and easy to read and always offering the big picture and a step ahead. The goal is to have the navigation system as human and intuitive as possible.

Engines that shift between electric and gas mode: this allows you to choose your fuel or shift between modes based on your driving demands; you can also use more electric power if you want and skip the gas station, shift in to full electric mode and qualify to use the EV (electric vehicles) or HOV lane on the highway, and park in spots reserved for EVs.

Adaptive cruise control: Almost a self-driving car, imagine letting the car drive itself through bumper to bumper traffic on I-95 while you relax a bit, check your messages and call your mom. Some cars, including Fords, have systems now that will manage traffic over 24MPH.

Wireless EV charging: parking spots (including the garage floor in your house!) can be outfitted with inductive charging pads; park on top of the pad and your car charges.

Bigger batteries, EVs that go further, store more power and take up less space in your engine compartment: the science of battery storage has been painfully slow in its advancement, say experts. And it’s the holy grail: Bigger capacity batteries that take up less space will dramatically transform our cars. This isn’t an immediate innovation, but it’s one the whole industry is working on.

-Reverse charging: Bigger batteries can allow you to recapture all the energy you have created while driving. Drive 500 miles and generate more electricity than your car needs? Charging stations can also allow you upload that electricity back to the grid or power up your house.

Cloud-based and self parking: Drive right to an open spot reserved just for you. Always park in the second row on the third level next to Nieman Marcus at the mall? Your car can learn this and will help to save you that spot. EVs can be directed to a spot with a charge station. Cars can parallel park, and eventually, just drop you at the door and go find a parking space by itself.

Never burn your bum on hot seats again: Your car can auto start and adjust the cabin temperature before you get in. It can also auto-adjust the temperature in your house when you’re on your way home, turn on the lights and when you walk into the house, the system can shift the music you were listening to in the car to your home system.

Luxury is a standard feature. Many of these features are ones that, in the past era, would only be found in luxury cars; but Ford, as well as many other auto makers, have stepped up to try to include as many features as possible on every model. From safety to connectivity, they want you to have it all. But don’t think they’re just being nice; the more tech in your car, the better the car maker can serve its customer, which leads to the last point:

All these features (well most, anyway) are upgradable. If Ford releases a groovy new map system with Scarlett Johansen providing voice navigation, you can have it, and you don’t have to buy a new car. With beamed in services, Ford will be able to update the car’s software systems wirelessly (until then systems are upgradable with a USB drive).

And the implications for more innovations are clear: You’ll be able to track your teen (or your tech-rejecting parents) on a map as they drive; you’ll be able to program your car from your iPad, phone or desktop computer; you’ll be able to predict issues with your car’s performance before you get in the car and your car will send you a note when it thinks it needs an oil change.

Ford made a nice video that illustrates their vision:{youtube}WyBO32jz7Vg{/youtube}

Woz & me: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak offered his vision of
the future of connected cars; I got a casual photo with him
before the session started
Ford’s Innovation Engine: Drawing On The Best And Brightest
The developers and engineers at Ford must be pretty smart to think of all these things. But, then, they’ve taken it up a notch to brilliant: they’re partnering with super-smart thinkers and developers from around the world, from Silicon Valley, Microsoft, Apple and more; they’re working with startups, innovation think tanks, venture capitalists, and even garage tinkerers and app developers to examine every possible innovation and improvement. In fact, you could be the author of the next innovation, big or small. If you have an idea you can present it at

But don’t worry if all this seems overwhelming; safety is Ford’s top priority. They want you to be safe, happy and mobile, not distracted or confused, so they’re working hard to make sure that all innovations are as intuitive and simple as possible. So even your tech-rejecting parents will find cars of the future to be a satisfying experience.

Meagan is a travel writer who lives in Dallas, Texas with her three children. Founder of, Meagan is... More about Meagan Wristen