image source: google images

Back to the future…

“The Jetsons” was a hit cartoon when I was growing up (produced by Hanna-Barbera,aired in primetime from September 23, 1962, to March 17, 1963). For a half hour every week, the show engulfed my imagination in a future world where people were enabled by robots, automation and streamlined, on demand mobility options. Rosie the maid was a robot and everything seemed so much easier for humans. The family seemed so happy, except when they were complaining about the hard work and minor inconveniences of life. Many things have changed over the years, now decades, and some things will remain the same.

This lifestyle, as it relates to mobility and the way we interact with products, is a reality in the developed countries of this world. CES showcased IoT, smart city, smart home and automotive technologies to improve our lives. That’s the idea anyway.

Ford Keynote Address: Mobility Solutions and the Move Towards Smarter Cities

On Tuesday, January 9, I attended the keynote event hosted by Ford, where Jim Hackett described the “Living Street”. This concept will require the redesign of city streets and the cooperation of car companies, municipalities, suppliers, architects and innovators. As described by Mr. Hackett, Ford leadership envisions open-source development of the new cityscape, shared mobility solutions and ease of access for everyone. In this utopian world, everyone will contribute to the development of the “Living Street” and everyone will benefit. Kudos to Ford and Jim Hackett for “big think” ideas. The trick will be the collaboration of numerous companies, cities, investors and innovators to develop solutions with a return on investment and mutual benefits.


Photo of the Ford Keynote at CES 2018

image source: maury fredricks iPhone

Ford is scaled to develop and mass produce vehicles with an eye on financial metrics and shareholder pressures to perform. The leadership of Ford and other car companies will need to navigate the rapidly shifting landscape and collaborate with innovators to develop Living Street mobility solutions. The company risks giving up too much focus on mass-produced vehicles while developing small batch (for initial production) shared mobility solutions.

Jim Hackett knows a bit about collaboration and connecting the dots from his two decades at Steelcase. This is evidently one of the key reasons he was recruited from retirement to bring new thinking to Ford and continue to lead the company towards becoming a mobility company. Ford has the resources and leadership to get this right, if they are willing to invest with innovative thinkers and agile, smaller firms.


image source: Local Motors

“Olli” is a real-world example of a shared mobility vehicle built on open-source or co-created development and micro manufacturing. The vehicle was developed by Local Motors and showcased at CES. Olli was designed by Edgar Sarmiento, a Columbian industrial designer who found the company online in 2014 after graduating from design school.

“The problem in Colombia is that product design, it’s not as strong,” Sarmiento says. “When industrial designers start working in the field … you start to work in graphic design, in publicity, in interior design.”

So he went exploring online and found himself in a digital design community run by an Arizona-based carmaker, Local Motors. Best-known for its 3-D-printed car, the company relies on people like Sarmiento to bring brand-new vehicles to market in a matter of weeks – a business model driven by co-creation (a cousin of crowdsourcing) and micromanufacturing (a cousin of small-batch, locally sourced production).

“We want the fastest speed to a good idea commercialized in the market; we want to be the maker; we want to sell it and service it out of our factory,” says Local Motors CEO John B. Rogers Jr.

This little (compared to Ford) company has been executing on a key component of the Ford strategy over the past several years. They launched Olli, a self-driving, cognitive vehicle powered by IBM Watson in June 2016. The company is ahead of the development curve and market in significant ways. They are working with a virtual team via co-creation, partnered with IBM and executing on a nimble manufacturing model to produce small batch vehicles. They also seem wiling to share the spoils with contributors.

Ford and Local Motors represent two very different business models working on the same big problems. Ford has been built on a legacy of developing mass market vehicles and they are very focused on selling big trucks and SUVs. Bill Ford and Jim Hackett will need to be smart enough to set up innovative teams with the resources and autonomy to move quickly to innovate and connect the dots with the wide range of disciplines to deliver the “Living Street” concept. They should be talking with nimble firms like Local Motors while exploring strategic partnerships with leading technology companies.

The world’s population will continue to increase every year and more people will migrate (or immigrate) to live in cities. Global population is expected to surpass six billion by 2045 as reported by There will simply not be enough resources to meet the needs of our global village, but that’s an entirely different challenge.

It’s a great time for big ideas and efficient execution to bring new mobility solutions to the masses, but will the mindsets shift as quickly as the toolsets?

I was lucky enough to grow up in a free market economy and democratic country with The Jetsons on TV and at least one car in most driveways. We are spoiled with over abundance in this country and our love of cars will be a big factor in the journey to shared mobility.

To millions of people, the problems of every day life are a bit closer to home. Transportation to and from a job to put a simple meal on the table is an everyday challenge. That’s if you have a job and if you make enough to feed your family.

This is when the thinking at Ford and Local Motors really starts to make sense. If we find ways to assemble the best design and engineering minds from big corporations with innovative, startups and city planners wonderful things will happen over the next decade…

Maury Fredricks


Fredricks Design, Inc.

Fredricks Design, Inc. is a full-service design and engineering firm based in Grand Haven, Michigan. The firm specializes in working as an extension of the client studio and engineering team to identify the right problems and accelerate development of solutions from early ideation, feasibility, concept development and production of mock-ups, prototypes and show properties. Fredricks works with key Clients in the automotive interiors and seating industries, advanced rides and show action projects for themed attractions, furniture, and consumer products markets.


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