At Ford, we spend a lot of time looking at market and consumer trends. We need to know where to make our investments today so we can position our company for tomorrow. We must keep one foot in the present to manage our business now while putting one foot in the future to visualize our business down the road.
In particular, five important “megatrends” are guiding our thinking around mobility and have changed the way we view innovation at Ford. These megatrends pose serious threats to the future of society, from urban overcrowding and worsening traffic to air pollution, climate change and resource constraints. But they pose opportunities as well. That’s why we used the megatrends as the basis for our mobility work – to help us find ways to prepare for the mobility needs of today and tomorrow. At least one of these megatrends frames each of our current mobility experiments.
Urbanization, growing populations in urban environments, and congestion
Today there are 28 megacities – that is, metropolitan areas with total populations of more than 10 million people. By 2030, we expect to see at least 41 megacities worldwide. Further, substantial growth in the number of cities with populations between 1 million and 10 million is predicted. The existing infrastructure for motor vehicles simply cannot sustain the sheer number of vehicles expected to be on the road in the coming years across all urban scales.
The rapid growth of the global middle class
At the same time as many cities are growing, we are also witnessing the rapid growth of the global middle class. The Brookings Institute reports that the global middle class will double in size by 2030, from 2 billion to 4 billion, with Asia driving much of the growth. Many in this growing middle class will aspire to own a car – one of the traditional markers of economic progress for the last half century. And that brings a new set of challenges.
Issues of air quality and related health risks from congestion
The World Health Organization is one of many noting that urban air pollution is a serious social and public health issue. Substantial progress has been made in reducing vehicle emissions of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter, and air quality has improved in many cities in developed nations. However, severe challenges exist in developing nations, and meeting air quality standards remains a challenge in many cities in developed nations. Further progress in reducing vehicle emissions is expected as vehicles with modern emission-control systems enter the on-road fleet and as vehicle emission-control technologies continue to become more effective. Our mobility experiments test ways we can build upon our already-strong commitment to reducing emissions.
Changing consumer attitudes and priorities
Millennials – those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s – are putting off marriage, delaying home buying and postponing having children. As consumers, they behave differently from older generations, especially when it comes to mobility. In the U.S., for instance, 47 percent of people today like using their smartphones to plan their transportation; 39 percent say they travel by bus, train or taxi so they can multitask; and 34 percent say they would be interested in renting their car to strangers if they could.
Climate change and resource constraints
As both the developed and developing world continue to grow, innovation and ingenuity will be needed to address impacts from energy use, water use and the increasing demand for raw materials. Transforming mobility through efficient vehicles, low-carbon-dioxide (CO2) fuels and multi-modal transportation systems will play an important role in decoupling mobility from resource use, cutting CO2 emissions related to climate change, improving supply chain sustainability and increasing access to mobility.
(Note that these mobility megatrends, which have some overlap with the sustainability megatrends we identified as part of our materiality analysis, are focused specifically on drivers of mobility challenges and threats to our business.)