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Bill Roth headshot

Alexa, Order Me a Ford Uber: Mobility and the Internet of Things

Words by Bill Roth

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) with the Internet of Things (IoT) is now achieving product commercialization.

Amazon’s Echo is one such pioneering AI + IoT product. It's an intelligent listening device with an interface named Alexa. Why would Amazon develop such a product? Think about the commercial disruption when we are in our home or office and we say “Alexa, order me an Uber” or “Alexa, add a sustainably-sourced laundry detergent to this week’s Amazon Prime purchases.”

Ford uses Echo to create mobility-as-a-service

Ford Motor Co. is piloting a technology demonstration using Echo to explore how AI and IoT can reshape our lives, the economy and our environment. Ford’s vision is to reengineer its cars to seamlessly connect to your artificial intelligence manager. The automaker is shifting its strategic direction from being solely a car manufacturer toward being a lower-cost, lower-emissions mobility solution enabled through AI and IoT.

Ford’s efforts are now focused on connecting its cars to your home. For example, assume you forgot to turn off or turn down your thermostat before leaving for work. Ford is developing technology-integration to enable a driver to talk to Alexa from inside his or her Ford vehicle to query a smart thermostat.

In this technology future when you query Alexa about your thermostat she will probably say: “No worries, your home’s smart thermostat already knew you were gone and reset temperatures. By the way, you wanted to buy flowers for tonight’s dinner, and there is a florist offering a dozen roses for $9.99 across the street from your destination.”

AI will commercialize autonomous driving and electric cars

Where AI gets interesting is when it's merged with electric cars and autonomous driving. Now imagine a world where you can ask Alexa to order a Ford and have a zero-emissions, self-driving car arrive.

This vision challenges the commercial model of car ownership. For example, mobility-as-a-service priced by the minute of use can be a lower-cost path than today’s monthly car payment or lease. It enables choosing the right vehicle for the mobility need. Need a pick-up truck? Order one for your weekend trip or project. Want a red convertible? Tell Alexa and she will have an electric one parked outside when you want it.

All of this frees the consumer from the burden and cost of maintaining and fueling a fossil-fueled vehicle. It adds productive time to our lives through its autonomous-driving feature. Rush-hour congestion is reduced as smart cars more efficiently navigate traffic. Urban air pollution is slashed, along with human incidents of asthma, cancer and heart disease, from using electric cars. This type of costs-less, means-more benefit stream is propelling Ford’s vision for becoming a mobility company.

How AI connected to IoT will save the world

The commercialization of AI + IoT holds the potential to cost-effectively integrate climate-change solutions into our daily lives. It will dramatically reduce energy consumption through increased efficiency at our homes, work places and vehicles. It holds the potential to be the enabling technology for Zero Net Energy buildings. It will almost certainly green the global supply chain as consumers adopt just-in-time delivery services along with the ability to use voice commands to specify externality benefits like “greenest product” or “sustainably sourced.”

AI + IoT = Green economic revolution

The green economic revolution is actually a technology revolution. This technology revolution of AI + IoT will deliver lower costs. It will drive an explosion of new products that grow jobs and our economy. It will also enable human health and environmental protection solutions through voice commands.

Refreshingly, this path does not need political consensus. It will gain consumer adoption because it wins on price -- plus it provides solutions to their in me, on me and around me issues. What makes this an economic revolution is that the sale of more sustainable products will become the path to business success. What makes this a green revolution is that the consumer will also buy “mean-more” results that will improve their health and that of the plant.

Image credit: Ford Motor Co. 

Bill Roth headshotBill Roth

Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!

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