Ford extends ride-sharing scheme as part of ‘City of Tomorrow’ vision

Motor giant Ford has outlined its vision for the 'City of Tomorrow', which utilises technologies such as drones and the Internet of Things (IoT) to enhance urban driving to lower air pollution, with the firm also extending its Chariot ride-sharing services to eight cities.

Ford, which now considers itself an “auto and mobility” company, acquired crowd-sourced shuttle service company Chariot in September 2016 – offering ride sharing services in the San Francisco Bay Area.

During this week’s North American International Auto Show, the company revealed that the Chariot service would be extend to eight cities. Already operating in San Francisco, Austin and Texas, the scheme will add an extra five cities to scheme, including at least one “global city”.

“This year, the expansion of our business as an auto and mobility company moves into even higher gear,” Ford’s chief executive Mark Fields said. “We’re introducing even more new vehicles and technologies to make life better for millions of people in the near term, plus we’re presenting a vision and partnering with cities to move more people even more efficiently in the future.”

The Chariot shuttles currently fill the gap between taxi and bus services, but with added environmental benefits. For every shuttle that is placed into service during peak travel conditions, Ford-commissioned research from KPMG claims that congestion could be reduced by up to 25 vehicles.

City of Tomorrow

Alongside the Chariot announcement, Ford unveiled its vision for the “City of Tomorrow”. The company’s City Solutions team – the only one present in the auto industry – is collaborating with a core group of global mayors, all of which are aligned with the goals and views of Michael Bloomberg’s Taskforce, to develop smart solutions for urban transport.

Under this vision, Ford is seeking to examine how electric vehicles (EVs), autonomous driving, ride sharing and IoT-connected vehicles can interact with urban infrastructure to ease congestion and improve air quality in cities.

Ford believes that bikes and drones can provide last-mile solutions for the transportation of people and goods around cities. In the next five years Ford expects bike services, such as its Chariot scheme, to expand globally.

The five-year expansion of the ride-sharing service will likely coincide with Ford’s prediction that autonomous vehicles will be commercialised within cities by 2021. Ford expects its first fully autonomous vehicle to be available within this timeframe.

The City of Tomorrow vision also outlines what longer-term trends will be evident in cities and how these will impact mobility. The City Solutions team revealed that it expects global EV sales to outnumber traditional gasoline-powered vehicle sales within the next 15 years.

As part of the longer-term vision, Ford will equip 20 million cars with built-in modems that allow them to connect with other vehicles and transport operating systems in the next five years. This growth will likely pave the way, Ford predicts, to a rise in wireless charging infrastructure around cities.

As digitalisation sweeps across global cities, Ford anticipates more robust date to appear from drones, street lights, parking meters and other infrastructure, all of which can be used to streamline journeys and lower the risk of traffic jams and slash vehicle emissions. The drones could even be used in developing cities to survey areas that have recently been hit by earthquakes or tsunamis.

“This is an issue that goes far beyond congestion. It is one that represents a massive challenge to mankind, one that affects our well-being and access to health care, clean drinking water, food, a safe place to live and even the ability to find work,” Ford’s executive chairman Bill Ford said.

“By solving the mobility challenge, we have the chance to create a better world for future generations. It’s both an exciting opportunity and a big responsibility.”

Last week, Ford confirmed that its new Transit, Mustang and F-150 models were among seven newly-announced EVs that will be heading to market over the next five years. The company also announced a new wireless charging pilot programme for EVs across the US and Europe that connects to the FordPass app to enable the reservation of these charging spaces.

Matt Mace

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