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Automated Driving Is The Future

DETROIT (AP/WWJ) - The world appears to be moving closer to the day when cars are sending information back and forth between each other -- at the speed of light. That information could minimize traffic jams, and prevent crashes.

General Motors, Toyota, and Honda have each indicated what the future holds for automobiles, announcing upcoming automated models of their vehicles.

Honda shared its vision of the hands-free highway commute Tuesday, a car that can safely drive itself on the freeway while the driver's hands are off the wheel.

While the car is just a prototype, Honda says the technology could start appearing on Honda cars in 2020 and beyond.

Meanwhile, General Motors says it will introduce a Cadillac with limited automated driving capabilities in the 2017 model year.

These recent developments in automobiles' technology have major implications for the future of driving.

"Ultimately, I believe, all forms of transportation have to be on a single network, talking to each other," said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, speaking to open the Intelligent Transportation Congress on Belle Isle.

Ford says that connectivity could tell drivers how long their commute is, whether it's better to take public transportation, and even find--and pay for--a parking space.

One day after General Motors promised to debut connected car technology on a 2017 Cadillac, Ford declined to give a timetable on when Ford will be ready to go with the technology.

"We've been working on this for a decade," he said. "I think it's great that others are coming into this space."

But the timing, Ford says, depends on putting together standards so that vehicle aren't limited in their ability to communicate.

"It doesn't do any good if Fords can only talk to other Fords," he said.

With 7.5 billion people on Earth today, and the population quickly rising to 9 billion, Ford says car companies can no longer be satisfied with selling more cars in emerging markets.

"Where are we going to put them. Where are you going to drive them," he said. "How are they going to interact with each other. You cannot shove two cars in every garage in Mumbai. It's preposterous."

Many of the ideas on how to solve the problems will come from other companies, smaller companies, says Ford.

True driverless cars are years off, Ford says, and even if the technology was available today, the public may not be.

"It kinda freaks some people out. Some people, they hear autonomous driving and say 'My God, I never want to get into that vehicle."

But a slow progression that runs from today's active safety, to connected cars, to limited automation, could make more people comfortable with the idea, Ford said.

Environmental challenges go along with the technical challenges, said Ford, who again called for a national energy policy.

The nation's carmakers, he says, are ready to put out more electrified vehicles, but the grid also has to be ready. And it doesn't help the environment if the electricity that fuels those cars comes from a coal-fired power plant.

"My firm belief is we can withstand, about one tear up to our infrastructure," said Ford. "We can't tear it up multiple times to hop from one fuel to another. We really need to decide where we need to go, and let's get on with it."

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