Apart from the 4.5-billion-dollar investment to expand its fleet of plug-in and hybrid electric vehicles, Ford Motor is also developing a new ride-hailing services.
The initiatives are part of a broader effort by Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields to counter threats posed by companies offering alternatives to car ownership and regulators who want vehicles to emit less carbon dioxide. Ford is piloting an on-demand Dynamic Shuttle service for its Dearborn, Michigan, employees this month, providing a new mobility solution featuring smart ride-hailing technology with customized shuttles, applying insights from earlier experiments and research with global urban commuters. Dynamic Shuttle, a Ford Smart Mobility experiment announced in January, supports the company’s broader effort to better adapt to the forthcoming commuting trend. The company is piloting Dynamic Shuttle with four Ford Transit vehicles and the program is expected to expand to more shuttle vehicles in Dearborn – potentially increasing ridership as Ford tests the performance of the software and gathers fleet data.
The Ford shuttle service will begin processing customer ride requests on the new platform as it gradually migrates from its dispatch-based platform. A web portal and smartphone application will be available to riders next quarter and will allow people to summon point-to-point rides on-demand. Once a mobile-based ride request is made, the Ford-developed software – including the algorithm that drives the platform’s technical capabilities – immediately determines the shuttle best suited to address the request without extending the travel time of riders already aboard.
Ford executives said their intent is to develop a commercial ride-hailing service, not just to sell vehicles to ride-hailing companies. “The market for vehicle miles traveled is 5 trillion dollars,” Fields said on the sidelines of a media presentation at Ford’s Dearborn design center. “We get zero of that.” Without offering specifics, Ken Washington, Ford’s vice president of research, said Ford is considering expanding the van-hailing service beyond its corporate campus, offering an alternative to rides in private cars or journeys on city buses. “Our vision is to be a mobility service provider, beyond building a vehicle that would be in somebody else’s fleet,” said Washington. “We see this as a business we want to be in.”