Normally, the automotive events I attend, which include test drives of the newest models, are just for us automotive writers. But Ford has a different idea.
Their Go Further With Ford safety, environment and design trend conference at company headquarters in Dearborn this month included an interesting mix of writers and bloggers on fashion, technology, design, home decorating, architecture and some who specialize in the new field of urbanization.
Plus, speakers from all those areas, including Ford’s longtime design chief, J. Mays, fashion designer Christian Siriano, and “Entourage” star and environmental activist Adrian Grenier.
The two-day gathering opened with a keynote address by Bill Ford, the company’s Executive Chairman, who warned that growing traffic snarls on roads from the US to India could become a human rights issue, “if you can’t move food and health care services because of gridlock.”
There are one billion vehicles on the world’s roads today. That number will quadruple to four billion by 2050, so — clearly — we have to do something.
Bill Ford and his “urbanization” engineers hope vehicle-to-vehicle communication will take some of the edge off the growing gridlock, by helping managing traffic flow, while new safety systems help reduce stress behind the wheel. One system in the works is Traffic Jam Assist, which helps keep traffic flowing by monitoring conditions 5-7 miles ahead and keeping pace automatically.
- Read my article on new automotive technology on NextAvenue.org
Ford, whose great-grandfather Henry Ford founded the company, said he’s been an environmentalist since the 70s, when “green” was a dirty word, and he was warned to stay away from conservationists and tree huggers.
Today, with Bill Ford steering a global corporate environmental mandate, 85% of components in Ford vehicles are recyclable, and the company has cut energy and water use and CO2 emissions by 50%.
Ford now makes interior carpeting out of recycled plastic bottles, and turns soybeans into foam for what’s called the headliner. That’s the padding inside the vehicle roof. Bill Ford told us his great-grandfather made bumpers out of soybeans, so this is not a new idea, but an old one that we are re-discovering. Like electric cars.
Designer Christian Siriano told us he considers whether fabrics are manufactured and dyed in the most eco-friendly way before using them.
Actor Adrian Grenier, whose production company Shft.com is making short, upbeat videos on envirionmental subjects, said “I look at the world as a shared experience. My mother taught me to clean my room at home. Now, I’m part of a larger community, and I want to keep that clean, too.”
Oh, yeah — ecoXplorer got to test drive new cars, including the 2012 Ford Focus Electric and the high-tech Police Interceptor sedan and SUV, and stand inside a wind tunnel and watch engineers test for aerodynamics. More about that another time.
The hashtags are #gofurther, #gofurtherdesign, #gofurthertechnology.