Henry Ford Foundation and Aalto University take Finland towards smart mobility


The Henry Ford Foundation has granted Aalto University 750 000 euros for smart mobility research. The cooperation was kicked off at the Smart Mobility seminar on 27 February 2018.

The future of automotive industry is not anymore exclusively about constructing new vehicles, but increasingly involves the implementation of new services to improve safety, comfort, and quality of the time spent within vehicles. The road to smart mobility, in fact, includes the development of emerging mobility services, which may be provided to vehicle passengers through an in-car system or other connected devices, including passengers’ smartphones.

At the seminar Joerg Ullrich from Ford Motor Company talked about the development of FordPass, a personal mobility assistant. The app enables drivers to remotely lock and unlock their car doors, check information like fuel and oil levels, and the vehicle’s location on a map. The Live Traffic feature offers drivers real-time updates and re‑routes them away from congestion. Joerg stressed the importance of deep understanding of customers’ needs and of building trust, especially with autonomous vehicles.

Richard Balch, who leads the City Solutions projects in Ford’s Smart Mobility office in London, mentioned connectivity, autonomy and electrification as three major shifts in the automotive industry. According to Richard open data and collaboration of cities is crucial in developing meaningful mobility services.

Ulla Tikkanen, technical project manager from Forum Virium Helsinki, attended the seminar to network and find partners for the newly started Horizon 2020 funded project FABULOS, in which automated minibus operation systems will be piloted across Europe. “I came to learn about the latest developments in the Finnish Smart Mobility and Automated Vehicle research and start-up scene, as well as Ford’s strives for the autonomous vehicle evolution. In FABULOS, we are currently looking for novel mobility solutions to be piloted in the urban environments by 2020, so I truly hope to see some of these companies joining our project!”

Research project Towards Smart Mobility

With the received funding, Aalto University will establish a team of three Doctoral Students under the supervision of three professors – Kari Tammi, Claudio Roncoli and Milos Mladenovic. The team focuses on in-vehicle technologies and energy efficiency, vehicle user interface, and vehicle to infra and vehicle to vehicle communication (see image). 

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​”The project, conducted in cooperation with Aalto University, guarantees a high-quality scientific research,” says Hannu Pärssinen, president of the Henry Ford Foundation and CEO of Oy Ford Ab. “On the other hand, the versatility of the university makes it possible to include all scientific fields involved in the development of the technologies of the future, such as vehicle engineering, traffic and transportation, telecommunications, ICT and digitalization as well as behavioral science.”

The cooperation aims at achieving a high quality education of Doctoral and Master Students, who are expected to develop a solid background and practical capabilities around the theme of smart mobility, with strong ties to the automotive industry.

”The Henry Ford Foundation grant gives Aalto University a chance to open up new research areas says professor Kari Tammi. “Cooperation with Ford’s product development gives our researchers valuable experience. There has been a lot of talk about Finland’s opportunities as a pioneer in smart mobility. Our know-how on digitalization creates a great basis for this, but creating innovations takes international cooperation”, Kari says.

More information:

Henry Ford Foundation


FABULOS project


From left to right: Kari Tammi (Aalto University), Hannu Pärssinen (Oy Ford Ab), Joerg Ullrich (Ford Motor Company), Matti Juhala (Aalto University) and Richard Balch (Ford Motor Company)