In the third installation of our series, PwC's Don Reed spoke with John Viera, Global Director, Sustainability and Vehicle Environmental Matters at Ford (and a frequent GreenBiz contributor). One of America's most well-known companies, Ford is looking ahead at its next century of innovation. Viera talks about intelligent vehicles, from what exactly that might mean to what it will take to get them out on the road.
Don Reed: When you talk about intelligent vehicles, what does that mean?
John Viera: You can think of intelligence as two things: first and foremost we'd like the vehicle itself to be safer. The other piece is around improvement in mobility, so how the vehicle interacts with the surrounding infrastructure.
Over the last several years, there has been a lot of focus on active safety -- adjustable cruise control that slows your vehicle down as you're approaching another vehicle, warning signals when you're backing up, rear cameras and all of that. It's all part of accident avoidance.
Now, we're looking ahead to the point where vehicle-to-vehicle communication can be used to really cut down on accidents. There are also vehicle-to-infrastructure features: which will allow for an understanding of where a vehicle is relative to traffic patterns. That'll be beneficial as well.
DR: What are the challenges of getting these technologies into your vehicles?
JV: When you talk about vehicle-to-vehicle technologies, obviously you're going to want to have all vehicles from all automakers have the same features, but the business case is challenging. You can't really charge people for something that either doesn't work because none of the other vehicles have it, or other vehicles have it, so it's not a premium feature.
I also think we're going to have some pretty big hurdles in spaces where we have to interface with entities outside of just the vehicle itself -- vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure, etc. How do you get those entities to standardize so that our vehicles, regardless of where they're being driven around or where they're being operated, are going to be able to take advantage of whatever technology we have in the vehicle?
DR: Let's talk about vehicle-to-grid. What needs to happen there?
JV: The electric vehicle ecosystem consists of not only the electric vehicle but also the plug that is used to charge the vehicles, the charging stations, and everything all the way back to the utility. There's tremendous opportunity for optimization in that space. It's a lot of different entities that didn't used to work with each other.