Mobile World Congress: Ford gears up to revolutionise driving

The world’s largest mobile conference isn’t a place that inspires modesty among its exhibitors, but instead provides the perfect backdrop for making grand gestures and bold claims.
Mobile World Congress: Ford gears up to revolutionise driving

One of the boldest so far this year has been Ford’s assertion that, as part of its evolution into a ‘mobility company’ as well as a carmaker, it is planning to do for drivers what iTunes did for music fans.

Given that Apple upended the status quo and re-invented the music industry with iTunes when it was launched a little over a decade ago, the US carmaker will have its work cut out to come good on its vision of the future.

That vision revolves around FordPass, its new service is set to be rolled out in Europe later this year and will help drivers avoid traffic; find and reserve parking; and personalise their cars.

“This all-new platform that we are launching in Europe later this year is really about listening to people’s needs and developing ways to help them move better. It’s also about convenience, connecting consumers with the world and making it all incredibly easy,” said Ford chief executive Mark Fields.

To facilitate such grand designs, drivers would have access to Ford staff whose job it would be to iron out any kinks in their journey; reserving parking or plotting the quickest route, for example.

Ford also outlined its efforts to develop autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles. So far it has developed technology that helps drivers steer, brake, and accelerate in heavy motorway traffic and a parking assistant to come to the saviour of those living in perpetual fear of having to parallel park.

It has also rolled out a pedestrian detection system to prevent accidents and introduced a speed limiter.

Speaking in another corner of the vast Mobile World Congress, a senior Porsche executive met the question as to whether the luxury carmaker had looked into speed-limiting technology with a curt ‘No’.

Why, he asked, would any Porsche driver want such a thing? He has a point.

In keeping with the theme of making bold claims, it fell to Porsche’s fellow upmarket carmaker Daimler to predict that autonomous driving will have the same impact on our lives as the advent of the car itself had 130 years ago.

Before long it seems all that’ll be left for the rest of us to do is sit back and relax.

Backing Apple

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has put his company’s considerable weight of support behind Apple in its battle with the FBI.

In an address to hundreds of mobile industry leaders at Mobile World Congress, Mr Zuckerberg backed Apple which is resisting a request from the FBI to unlock the phone of one the shooters involved in the deadly San Bernardino terrorist attack last December.

Apple claims the request to create a “backdoor” into the iPhone could have wide-ranging implications for the freedom and privacy of millions of users.

“We’re sympathetic with Apple on this one. We believe in encryption, we think that’s an important tool. I just think it’s not the right thing to try and block that from a mainstream product that people want to use and I think it’s not going to be the right regulatory or economic policy to put in place. But at the same time we feel like we’ve got a pretty big responsibility running this big networking community to help prevent terrorism,” Mr Zuckerberg said.

While Facebook and a host of other major technology companies appear to be squarely behind Apple on the issue, However, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has instead backed the FBI. Mr Gates told the Financial Times that he considers the request to be a specific case that would not create a precedent.

His comments mark him out from most other Silicon Valley leaders, including the chief executive of his own company, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella.

Peter O’Dwyer

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