Ford Motor Company and Your Southern Ford Dealers are the presenting sponsor for my Florida Blogger & Social Media Conference. As a result, I am often invited as an influencer to many of their automotive events, where Ford pays for all travel, food, and lodging.
I just finished up with one of my favorite tech events of the year: The Further with Ford Conference.
This event has less to do with cars and more to do with mobile tech and human behavior, including how people make decisions, design things, and explore future ideas. I’ve gotten to talk with Steve Wozniak, Seth Godin, Alexa O’Hanna, and many more thought leaders as a result of coming to this trends conference, and this year was just as exciting.
The main topic of this year’s event was autonomous vehicles. Driverless cars are definitely coming and will be driven by Ford workers in just 2 years. After that Ford is expanding to the general public by 2021 via ride sharing (think Uber). Ford CEO Mark Fields emphasized that the company is committed to making autonomous vehicles affordable by the masses, not just the wealthy few. Yes!
Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist, explained the way people make bad decisions even when we know they are bad, and how we can be motivated to make different decisions by marketers. Check out his Ted Talk for a better explanation:
Yes, you read that correctly: 50 lanes! 12-day traffic jam!
So, with the rise of the mega cities (20 million or more residents) Ford is trying to envision a future where more cars is not the solution but rather the way we use cars (and other modes of transportation) is the key. So Ford has created a new team called City Solutions to work with city planners around the world. Concepts like ride sharing and bike sharing programs are well within Ford’s new vision.
For a year or so now Ford has been saying it is both an automotive AND mobility company. Think about it, technology has taken over just about every aspect of our lives from our phones to our cars. The marriage of the two makes sense, so Ford has to be open to working with Silicon Valley companies in order to stay ahead of the technology merging into cars. Great grandson Bill Ford added, though, that Ford Motor Company will never change its name just to Ford. “Hell No!”
Bill Ford was asked if Tesla is a real thing, to which he responded, “Yes, it is a real thing,” before adding, “I would never dismiss a competitor.”
Tech companies getting into cars; car companies getting into tech. Which will win the race to the driverless car first? Automobiles are one of the most regulated industries in the world for good reason… we’re trusting our lives and the lives of our families to a 2-ton metal machine. Most of us have trouble getting our iPhones to work correctly (been to a Genius Bar lately?) so what will we do when faced with an entire car-sized computer?
I have mad respect for these companies that are willing to take on the challenge to simplify and streamline this technology for us.
Ford had a special announcement about teaming with the headphone company B&O to provide an amazing sound system in their cars. To emphasize how cool this is, singer Andra Day gave a mini-concert, performing her hit song at the first night’s dinner reception:
I’m a huge fan of the HBO series Silicon Valley about the startup life. In the first season, a mishap occurs with a driverless vehicle creating a truly memorable episode:
Of course this aired before Dan had ever had the chance to actually experience an automated vehicle, but earlier this week he got his chance. And while riding in the driverless vehicle, Dan said he had a sudden worrisome thought about what would happen if his vehicle took a turn off Ford property and headed toward the Detroit River! HAHAHAHA
Dan was actually at the conference to moderate a Q&A with Ford’s Raj Nair, who is in charge of tech and product development. Design of the cars quickly became a topic and Raj explained that engineers sometimes don’t think the way the consumer does. In fact he told the story of his wife who was driving her Ford and became stuck in the snow. She called him and explained she had the snowflake button in the car activated but she was still stuck. It turns out the snowflake indicated slippery conditions, while the cactus should have been used for sand or snow. Um, what? (Yeah, engineering fail!)
Yes, you read that correctly. And I know this because Ford had a mini competition with innovative ideas thought up by their employees: drinking water from the AC, a phone app to control the car environment, and then a Segway-style luggage carrier.
The whole thing was a fun contest to highlight innovation and the audience voted on their favorite:
But the best thing was the winner won $10,000 for Code2040, an organization dedicated to helping teach coding skills to black and Latino youths to create pathways to success in the engineering field.
Once again Ford Motor Company impressed me as a company that is more than a car company, but rather an organization that not only realizes its place but its responsibility as a leader in today’s world. I’m proud to team with Ford to highlight their innovation and commitment to the future!
Ford will have a strong presence once again at this year’s FLBlogCon. In fact, Ford’s Sheryl Connelly, who is the Global Consumer Trends and Future Manager, will be our featured opening keynote. There are only a few tickets left, so hurry if you want to be a part of it! Get tickets here.