Willing to give your car up in the 21st century?

Bill Ford, chairman of Ford Motor Co., predicts that by the middle of this century, the number of vehicles on the road worldwide will grow from 800 million to between 2 billion and 4 billion. The possible result? Global gridlock. Already, daily commutes in Beijing can last five hours, and the city has even had multiday traffic jams.

The consequences would be much more serious than people arriving late for work. At some point, food could spoil before it gets to market. People could die as ambulances get hopelessly caught in traffic.

Being a good chairman, Ford isn’t satisfied simply to cite problems. He’s also let his mind generate some possible solutions, and they’re firmly rooted in technology.

The great grandson of Henry Ford believes information technology will play a major role in solving the problem. It’s not likely that many more roads will be built; the land simply isn’t available in big cities. Instead, Ford believes cars eventually will communicate with one another, figuring out among themselves which should go where to keep traffic flowing at maximum efficiency. Smart cars also could learn in advance where parking spaces are available and then reserve them. This would put an end to having to drive block after block, burning fuel and patience, in search of a spot.

Ford obviously wants to keep selling cars, but he sees beyond increased profits for his company when he advocates on behalf of letting the automobile count increase. The freedom of individual mobility, he says, has made the United States a vibrant, dynamic nation; it helps enrich thought and culture as well as commerce, and it shouldn’t be sacrificed.

So, if Ford’s vision becomes reality, and if we move toward electric vehicles and as-yet-unseen innovations, you won’t have to give up your car. Drive on, America, and join in, world.

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