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Ford Looks to Gamers for Urban Congestion Solutions

August 10, 2015

Ford Looks to Gamers for Urban Congestion Solutions

Video games used to be known exclusively as the primary pastime of teenage slackers, but in recent years games and gaming culture have gone mainstream. No longer just a time-killing diversion, video games can now offer urban planners creative solutions to global mobility issues.

Despite being a company that’s been in existence since 1903, the Ford Motor Company prides itself on being the cutting edge of innovation. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Ford would play a central role in the Smart Mobility Game Challenge, a contest that allows game developers the opportunity to design alternative transport modes in urban communities.

Appropriately enough, Ford announced the contest at Gamescom 2015, Europe’s biggest trade fair for the video game industry. Developed in association with Cologne Game Lab, Ford’s Smart Mobility Game Challenge invites developers to create engaging interactive games that integrate different transport modes within a given cityscape.

Players are encouraged to find alternative efficient traffic paths that may better decrease commuter traffic. The games use typical gaming features, such as point scoring and one-on-one competition, to incentivize game play that takes roads less travelled so that overall urban congestion is eased.

Event organizers such as Ken Washington, Ford’s vice president of Research and Advanced Engineering, hope that by gamifying urban landscapes, game developers may help encourage creative solutions and approaches to global mobility issues.

“The Smart Mobility Game Challenge is designed to harness the creativity of the gaming community and empower gamers to take a fresh approach to tackling today’s global mobility issues,” said Washington. “Applying the fun, engaging and rewarding aspects of games to journey planning can allow people to improve their commutes, track their success and become aware of how their behaviour impacts the transport infrastructure as a whole.”

Ford’s Smart Mobility Game Challenge takes advantage of two growing trends: population growth in urban communities and increased used of mobile technology in the daily lives of commuters. As cities become more densely populated, it becomes increasingly important to design solutions that mitigate congestion. Since nearly half of all people use mobile phones to plan their commutes, according to Ford research, Ford concluded that game developers may be able to approach the problem from a different angle and, in theory, find an innovative solution for it.

A panel of experts will select five finalists and the winning team will receive 10,000 euros (or the equivalent of 10,968.50 U.S. dollars) along with a spot in the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona. One of the contest’s judges, Bjoern Bartholdy, is a clear advocate of the contest’s potential.

“Games are designed to entertain, but for the developers it’s a serious business that requires astute problem-solving abilities as well as creativity—exactly the qualities needed to tackle the challenge of integrating existing transport systems,” Bartholdy said. “We’re excited to partner with Ford in putting the talents and know-how of the gaming community to great use with Ford Smart Mobility Game Challenge.”

The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2015. Individuals interested in participating in the project can do so at http://www.ford-smart-mobility-game-challenge.com/.