At an event in San Francisco this morning, Ford Mobility LLC announced plans to acquire and invest in Chariot, an app-based commuter shuttle startup, and to bring Ford's GoBike bike-sharing program to the San Francisco Bay Area. These efforts are part of Ford's initiative to help solve congestion by partnering directly with major global cities, starting with the City by the Bay.
Nobody loves congestion and traffic jams, apparently not even the people who make and sell the thousands of cars stuck in those jams. In crowded cities like San Francisco, commuters have begun to explore car-free methods of travel -- including a plethora of ride-sharing startups like Chariot -- but more continue to simply suffer through jams and further contribute to the problem of congestion. Here's where Ford Mobility hopes to come in easing access to car-free commuting.
The biggest news is the planned acquisition of shuttle service Chariot. The startup is essentially part UberPool ride sharing and part privately operated bus service. Chariot's fleet of commuter shuttles -- Ford Transit Connect vans are already Chariot's vehicle of choice for this purpose, which is convenient for Ford's acquisition -- pick up and drop off along crowdsourced routes that users find and access via a smartphone app. The app offers real-time route monitoring and instant access like Uber and Lyft, but Chariot also ideally offers the regularity of public transportation with a predictable price that's somewhere between a hired car and a bus fare.
Ford's acquisition and investment in Chariot will bring the service to "at least five additional markets in the next 18 months," so you could be seeing the blue and white Chariot vans in your crowded neighborhood in the near future.
Today's news also brings the announcement that Ford is launching its Ford GoBike bike-sharing service in San Francisco Bay Area. In partnership with Motivate, a leader in bike share, and working with city officials, Ford plans to add new bike-sharing stations and 7,000 new bikes around the Bay Area by the end of 2018. Users will be able to rent their wheels through the FordPass platform when Ford GoBike launches next year.
Ford's (and other automakers') experimentation and investments in mobility solutions beyond simply selling more cars provides the feel-good benefits of easing congestion, reducing pollution and making driving more enjoyable, but also the bottom line advantage of exploring new revenue streams as drivers in these dense areas move away from the traditional vehicle ownership paradigm.
To this end, a new City Solutions team has been formed within the Ford Smart Mobility LLC dedicated to expanding efforts like these in other cities worldwide in the near future.