Ford Motor Co. will test new car-sharing programs and foldable electric bikes inside its vehicles as it seeks new ways to adapt to global congestion and changing consumer attitudes.
The projects emerged from a series of 25 mobility experiments Ford launched last January to better understand consumers’ mobility needs around the world.
“We are now moving from experimentation to implementation,” Ford Chief Executive Mark Fields told journalists Tuesday in San Francisco. “We have learned a lot in the past six months and now are ready to put insights into action. Our goal is to make people’s lives better by helping them more easily navigate through their day, address societal issues and, over time, change the way the world moves.”
Fields compared the historic shift to the way company founder Henry Ford made cars accessible to everyone a century ago. “It’s really about human progress,” he said. “Mobility means freedom — freedom to live, work and play where we want.”
Ford’s finance arm, Ford Credit, is launching pilot car-sharing programs with two partners — Getaround in the United States and easyCar Club in London — that will allow Ford owners to rent their vehicles to prescreened drivers when they are not in use. “Think of it as AirBnB for cars,” Fields said. Ford Credit will invite 14,000 U.S. customers in three California cities – San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley – as well as Chicago, Washington and Portland to sign up for the program. Another 12,000 owners of Ford-financed vehicles will be invited to participate in London.
Younger car owners, in particular, see car-sharing as a way to earn money to offset their monthly car payments, said Fields. “The sharing economy is very real. We need to understand what concerns them,” he said.
Sometimes, you just can’t get all the way to your destination by car. So Ford is also testing a “multi-modal” mobility solution called MoDe:Flex that includes a reconfigurable electric bike that charges while stored in the vehicle and an app that helps identify the most efficient and cost-effective mode of transportation for a trip. The MoDe:Link app, for example, might suggest you drive you car to the train station, ride the train to the city, then ride your bike the final mile to the office.
It is also being adapted for a smartwatch, which is good, since you don’t want to arrive at the office all sweaty. Instead, you can set the watch to ”no sweat mode” which amps up the electric pedal assist based on your heart rate to ensure you don’t break a sweat on the way to your destination. It also helps with navigation and safety hazards by sending a vibrating signal to the handlebars.
Fields says Ford isn’t getting into the bike business — yet, at least — and it’s definitely not getting away from building and selling cars and trucks. In fact, he thinks the auto industry is still a growth business. “Think of all the miles being put on those shared cars,” he told me. Instead of being parked all day, while their owners are at work, those cars will be working, too, which means they’ll need more service, more repairs — and ultimately, replacement — all of which is good for Ford.
This article was written by Joann Muller from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.