Ford Partners With Chariot on Crowd-Sourced Shuttle

Ford is getting involved in other aspects of the mobility business.

Timothy Healey
    Jan 09, 2017 1:58 PM  PT
Ford Partners With Chariot on Crowd-Sourced Shuttle
author: Timothy Healey    

DETROIT – Ford has announced it will be acquiring crowd-sourced shuttle service Chariot.

Ford is acquiring the San Francisco-based company as part of a larger outreach to San Francisco and other cities around the world to address mobility problems such as congestion. Ford will also be collaborating with bike-sharing company Motivate in a similar effort.

"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," Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, said in a statement. "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."

With about half the world's population living in urban areas, and Ford expecting that number to grow by at least 10 percent, the company wants to position itself as a company that can help with logistical solutions – which may be an acknowledgment of the changes that could be coming to the automotive industry in the near future.

"Cities globally are dealing with increased congestion, a growing middle class and environmental issues – all of which can be alleviated by developing mobility solutions fine-tuned to the unique challenges of each location," Jim Hackett, chairman, Ford Smart Mobility LLC, the company's subsidiary created to design, build, grow and invest in emerging mobility services, said in a statement. "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 wants to expand Chariot's service beyond San Francisco to five or more new markets within the next 18 months.

As it stands now, Chariot, which was formed in 2014, uses Ford Transit Connect vans to serve 28 routes throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

The routes are currently crowd-sourced based on user demand, but Ford plans to use algorithms to map out the best routes, adjusting to needs in real time.

The idea is to fill in the service gaps between taxis, ride-shares and buses.

Ford spent very little time on the news regarding its traditional automotive products at the 2017 North American International Auto Show, which takes place in its backyard in Detroit, preferring to instead focus on its planned mobility business.

That's a sign that automakers – or at least one of them – are looking towards a future in which the automotive industry looks very different. A future that may be here soon.