Ford launches new shuttle and bike-sharing services as part of City Solutions initiative

Motor company Ford has created a new City Solutions team, which will seek to solve congestion issues in the world's busiest cities, starting in San Francisco where the acquisition of a crowd-sourced shuttle service will streamline transportation in the area.

Ford revealed on Monday (12 September) that it had reached an agreement to purchase the San Francisco-based, crowd-sourced shuttle service Chariot, as well as agreeing to collaborate with bike-sharing provider Motivate.

The acquisition of Chariot, which operates around 100 Ford Transit shuttles across 28 routes throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, will see Ford incorporate data algorithms to map shuttle routes to match the mobility needs of commuters. The collaboration with Motivate will see the number of bikes in the area increased by 7,000 by 2018.

“Cities globally are dealing with increased congestion, a growing middle class and environmental issues – all of which can be addressed by developing mobility solutions fine-tuned to the unique challenges of each location,” Ford Smart Mobility’s chairman Jim Hackett said.

“At the same time, by expanding our business model to include new forms of transportation – from bikes to dynamic shuttles and more – we are introducing new customers to Ford and creating new revenue and profit opportunities for the future.”

Ford is using estimation trends, which assume that by 2030 the number of people living in urban environments will grow to 60%, as a platform to strengthen its mobility options in cities. The acquisition of Chariot will act as the “cornerstone” for Ford’s venture into the shuttle services sector. The company has confirmed that, over the next 18 months, the shuttle scheme will expand to at least five additional markets.

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.

As well as adding an extra 7,000 bikes to the area, the collaboration with Motivate will see new bike stations added. Data collected from the bikes will be used to build an “interconnected mobility network”, which highlights real-time weather conditions, usage patterns and bike availability.

“We’re expanding our business to be both an auto and a mobility company, and partnering with cities on current and future transportation needs is the next major step,” Ford’s president Mark Fields said.

“For more than 100 years, Ford has been part of the community and the trusted source for automotive transportation. Now, we want to work with communities to offer even more transportation choices and solutions for people – for decades to come.”

City solutions

Ford’s newly established City Solutions team will aim to expand these services worldwide as part of the Ford Smart Mobility initiative. The team will address a variety of cities on how transport ecosystems have evolved and what challenges will arise in the future. The team is already conversing with municipalities to pilot solutions tailored to individual communities.

Ford’s work in enabling environment of San Francisco aims to expand internal low-carbon developments and place them in the hands of consumers. The company has recently announced that it intends to use carbon-based foam products in its vehicles, while also exploring the use of bio-materials made from the by-products of tequila production.

By 2021, these two innovative material uses could be found in fully autonomous vehicles, with Ford aiming to roll-out driverless cars in high volume as part of a service that capitalises on a growing sharing economy market.

Matt Mace

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