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The Ford Motor Company and MIT are addressing an array of 21st century challenges that confront the automotive manufacturer through an innovative program begun in 1997.
The Ford-MIT Alliance, renewed through 2008, has created a model for mutually beneficial university-corporate research. The alliance has grown beyond the initial focus areas of environmental science and policy, information technology in product development, virtual teams, and education. New interests include specialized research projects and two new program areas in active safety and powertrain technology research. The research projects are also linked with recruiting and MIT’s educational programs, enrolling engineers and managers that bring new research knowledge back into Ford.
The rapid pace of change in the automotive industry makes this an exciting time for MIT researchers to partner with Ford to advance technologies in the automotive industry.
MIT faculty and researchers are innovating for the future in the following areas:
Mobility 2025+ -- The growing number of mega-cities will require us to completely re–think personal transportation as congestion, parking and pollution increase. No one company or industry will be able to solve the mobility issue alone; therefore collaboration, communication and common global frameworks are required. The challenge is to develop new business models to determine how Ford will be relevant in these mega–cities as personal vehicles are banned or become impractical. A goal is to define what is core to Ford, where to partner/collaborate and what elements do not make sense to engage in from a business perspective. Development of new business models, new vehicle concepts and technologies required to deliver the vision are desired.
Vehicle electrification -- The electrification of vehicle propulsion systems will constitute a growing segment of the market. Improvements in the efficiency of electric drivetrains including batteries, motors, controls, etc. are desired.
Vehicle connectivity -- Vehicles are rapidly becoming network nodes and will receive safety and entertainment related information from personal devices, the Internet, infrastructure and other vehicles. Enhancing any type of useful connectivity is desired.
Vehicle light-weighting: Currently legislated fuel economy standards can no longer be met effectively solely through employing more efficient engine and transmission technologies. Substantial material substitution throughout the vehicle will be necessary to create sufficiently light–weight structures. Advances in cost-effective lightweight materials and/or structures suitable for high volume production are desired.
Active safety technology -- The majority of automotive safety progress to date has been in "passive safety," protecting the occupants in the case of collisions. The main future thrust of safety technology will be toward zero accidents/zero fatalities utilizing "active safety," to avoid accidents altogether, utilizing sensors, communications, vehicle connectivity and situational awareness to advise and assist the driver. Advances in relevant technologies with automotive applicability are desired.
Powertrain fuel efficiency technologies -- The internal combustion engine has proven to be the most cost-effective powertrain solution over the last century and will remain the mainstay propulsion system for decades. There are substantial additional efficiencies that can yet be captured utilizing emerging technologies. Modest increases in IC engine efficiency applied in high volume can actually result in more fuel savings and fewer emissions than "dark green" low-volume solutions. Further improvement to IC engines efficiency is desired.
Business analytics/enterprise modeling -- Applying mathematical modeling and operations research techniques to improve business processes can generate great benefit to the Company in the areas of supply chain, logistics, order fulfillment, product portfolio planning, option content bundling, contract negotiation, and electronic markets among others. Improved methods or new applications for enterprise modeling are desired.
In-vehicle health and wellness -- There has been a substantial increase in overall interest in health and wellness and this trend is expected to accelerate strongly as the baby boom demographic ages, though the trend is not limited to that demographic cohort. Consumer perceptions of driving have also changed as people spend more unpleasant time on congested roads. The ability to improve the well–being, stress state, and satisfaction of the driver and passengers during the in–vehicle experience is desired.