Editor’s Note: The is an excerpted version of Tuesday’s AutoMobility LA keynote speech by Ford Motor Co. Chief Executive Mark Fields.  

Good morning, and welcome to the first-ever AutoMobility LA.

I think we should all take a second to recognize the significance of this moment. We’re attending the first major auto show in the world that’s not just about cars. That’s an amazing sign of something that’s happening all around us. It’s occurring on the streets outside this conference hall, on the roads in cities on every continent, and in our day-to-day lives.

We’re on the cusp of a mobility revolution.

And we at Ford are excited about that because we’ve literally spent more than 100 years getting ready for this moment.

From its beginning, Ford has always been a company that used innovation to help create a better tomorrow. Let me give you an example.
120 years ago, horses were the cutting edge of personal mobility. At that time, people only traveled about four miles a day. So naturally, they structured their lives around that limitation. But that meant people couldn’t get where they wanted to go. In fact, they couldn’t even imagine going places beyond that four-mile stretch.

That’s the problem our founder Henry Ford set out to solve. He imagined a future where everybody could afford a vehicle that would radically expand their horizons. He was dedicated to making people’s lives better by changing the way the world moves. And that’s part of our DNA at Ford, and what drives us still today.

Before mass production of affordable automobiles, most people never ventured more than 10 miles from home. In their lifetimes. Imagine never leaving the 10-mile radius around your house. When you think about it that way, you can really appreciate the significance of that first major change to personal mobility.

What’s interesting is that the time people spend moving from point A to point B has remained remarkably constant. People all over the world are moving, on average, an hour to an hour and a half every day, and that’s been true for several hundred years.

What’s changed is the distances people are traveling. Our range – and the explosion of options and opportunity that come with it – has been expanded by new vehicles and the infrastructure we’ve built around them. And with that expansion has come the evolution of the travel experience.

Through the years, dedicated teams and imagination transformed the very first Ford.

Cars are still important. In fact, just last night, we introduced Ford’s newest SUV, Ford EcoSport.

But while we will continue to make great vehicles, they are no longer our entire game.

Today, we’re not only dreaming about the Road of Tomorrow, but also focused on creating the City of Tomorrow. Which means continuing to find ways to make people’s lives better whether they own a car or not.

Consider this:

  • Right here, in Los Angeles, commuters can easily spend more than an hour each way getting to work. That’s two hours out of the day when you’re trapped in traffic. Over a lifetime, that’s nearly 25 percent of your free time – the hours you’re not working or sleeping.
  • Congestion is costly in other ways, too. L.A. congestion accounts for one-fifth of the congestion in the U.S. and costs the city $23 billion every year.
  • If you zoom out, you see that every year in the U.S., drivers spend roughly 160 million hours in their vehicles. And it’s going to get worse. Some estimates say population growth and the extension of today’s transportation options will increase total miles driven by as much as 25 percent by 2040. 
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These are serious challenges.

But at Ford, we believe in the power of human imagination. We believe in our collective ability to solve these big mobility problems. The key is to focus on what’s important. It’s not about building fancy machines or writing lines of amazing code. It’s about helping each other. Because mobility is really not just about technology. It’s about people.

At Ford, we feel really strongly about this. Our greatest asset is the people who make up this company. It’s our ability to work together in new and exciting ways, both inside and outside the company. That is at the heart of everything we do.

There is a lot of talk these days about artificial intelligence. At Ford, our intelligence isn’t artificial. It’s human. And it’s always been this way at Ford.

With that in mind, Ford has decided to take an expansive view of mobility. Let me give you some examples of what that looks like.

Imagine if we focused on optimizing roads for the total number of people on them instead of the total number of vehicles. How would that affect the transportation solutions we develop?

Or what if we could transform a commute from something painful into an opportunity to take a class, watch a movie or play a game?

Or think about this: What would a city look like if more people were using shared services versus personally-owned vehicles?

At Ford, we’ve seen how exciting and liberating it is to imagine the future of mobility in this way. And from our vantage point, cities carry the biggest rewards and risks as we create this City of Tomorrow.

That’s why we created the Ford City Solutions team to work with cities around the world to help map the future, starting with San Francisco and growing from there. We know every city is unique, with different needs and unique transportation challenges. Instead of offering a single set of solutions to all cities, we’re working with each city directly to identify the needs of its citizens and tailor transportation solutions for them.

It’s also why the innovative team at Chariot is now part of our Ford mobility team. Chariot is an app-based, crowd-sourced shuttle service that adapts to customer demand. It started in San Francisco and now has launched in Austin with plans to work with at least four more cities in the next 15 months.

It’s why we’re partnering with Motivate and Bay Area bike share to launch Ford GoBikes, providing yet another way for people to move easily around the city.

And we’re partnering with some amazing thinkers to bring a fully autonomous vehicle to life – with no steering wheel, and no brake or gas pedal – starting in 2021 for use in ride-sharing and ride-hailing services.

Importantly, leading in these mobility solutions and working together with cities is good for our business. Ford has been a longtime partner to cities as a leading provider of vehicles for police, rescue and taxis in cities around the world. That will continue and even grow as we become closer to key cities, which will improve our core business of building great vehicles.

At the same time, we will see substantial revenue opportunity in providing mobility solutions to millions of commuters in the U.S. and the growing work force in several major cities globally – many of who do not own vehicles today or do business with Ford.

All of this work will help us unlock the future of transportation systems. And, beginning next year, we will be directly engaging city leaders, tech visionaries, urban planners, designers and local communities – bringing public and private together – to discuss and develop solutions for the transportation system that can improve people's lives in ways we can only just begin to imagine.

Today, I’m proud to announce that Ford is beginning to collaborate with Mike Bloomberg in his philanthropic work with a coalition of mayors worldwide. We’re discussing how we can work together to help create the City of Tomorrow, incubating ideas around mobility and to accelerate solutions in cities. Working with Bloomberg, we will collect the best ideas from around the world and put them into action.

At Ford, we clearly understand that achieving this success will not be done on our own. It will require working together and partnering and listening to others.

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