On-the-go H2O spearheads Ford's company-wide innovation drive at 'record pace'
Motor giant Ford's recent innovation push is being driven by employees across all areas of the business at "record pace", with a prototype that turns condensation from air conditioners into drinking water just one of the 3,500 innovations submitted this year.
The company expects submitted inventions to set an annual record in 2016, with more than 4,500 Ford employees, most of which aren’t from the R&D department, submitting innovative new methods to drive low-carbon methods and help tackle global megatrends.
Speaking at the Further with Ford annual trends conference, the company’s chief technical officer Raj Nair said: “The significant increase in first-time inventors is a result of our push to drive innovation in all parts of our business.
“At the same time, we’ve ramped up global innovation challenges, where we seek new ideas company-wide and then – coupled with input from employees – see how we can further those ideas.”
A total of 4,500 employees have submitted innovation ideas – which aim to push Ford beyond its CSR goals. Since the beginning of 2015, 3,500 first-time inventors have submitted ideas, with the company expecting 2016 to act as a record-breaking year for internal innovation that surpasses the 6,000 concepts submitted in 2015.
The Further with Ford conference highlighted recent innovations that were creating a buzz of excitement within the company.
Earlier this month, a Ford powertrain controls engineer Doug Martin established a way in which condensation from vehicle air conditioners – which usually just seep onto the pavements below – could actually be filtered to produce drinkable water.
Martin found that a single vehicle can produce more than 64 ounces of water each hour, which is enough to produce around four bottles of water. Not only does Ford envision a time where drinkable water from cars can be used to combat water scarcity, but it also encourages consumers to purchase less bottled water – which is contributing to “plastic soup” in the oceans.
As well as the On-the-go H2O concept, Ford also highlighted new sharing economy prospects, and an urban vessel designed to transport heavy packages around cities.
A Ford systems engineer in Cologne Kilian Vas, submitted an invention for a multipurpose functionality vehicle that transports riders and even heavy objects and deliveries around cities and urban landscapes.
The Carr-E concept is an electrified, four-wheel vehicle that can be programmed to transport people and objects as part of the “last leg” of a journey. It is hoped the idea would decrease the amount of lorry and truck deliveries and taxi journeys in the city.
Phone as a car
The concepts of both ride-sharing and autonomous vehicles have been gaining traction in recent months. Despite the potential, consumer response seems mixed, as worries over driver control surface.
To ease consumer and passenger concerns, Ford’s Oleg Gusikhin, Omar Makke and Jeff Yeung have seeked to empower those in the autonomous car by spawning the SYNC Remote Control. The concept acts as a remote function that allows passengers to control features such as climate control from their smartphones.
The idea is to give passengers in autonomous, ride-sharing vehicles – which Ford wants to introduce by 2021 – control over everything in the car other than the driving responsibility. Ability to adjust seats, change radio stations and even translate speech for non-native passengers could soon be introduced.
Ford is focused
While the Further with Ford conference focused on these three innovations, the company has been busy rolling-out numerous trials and pilots of innovative projects aimed at lowering energy costs and reducing emissions.
Earlier this month, Ford created a new City Solutions team, which will seek to solve congestion issues in the world's busiest cities after acquiring shuttle and bicycle-sharing services.
Ford has also set itself a five-year window to introduce new foam and plastic components made from carbon dioxide feedstock, becoming the first in the sector to test the viability of CO2-based materials.
As well as introducing a recycling technique that restores worn-out engine blocks back to its original factory condition – and reducing emissions from the process by 50% - Ford has also launched a new collaborative research approach with the world's biggest tequila producer Jose Cuervo, that will explore the potential of bio-materials made from the by-products of tequila production.