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Ford buys into ride-sharing

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Ford has acquired Chariot, a crowd-sourced shuttle service, and is collaborating with bike-sharing provider Motivate to expand its transportation solutions in city centers.

The company is also establishing a new City Solutions team to work with cities around the world on their transportation needs.

“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,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “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.”

Today, half the world’s population lives in cities. By 2030, that number is expected to grow to 60 percent. As city populations grow, the challenges tied to moving people and goods around become tougher. Ford is committed to being part of the solution.

“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,” said Jim Hackett, chairman, Ford Smart Mobility LLC, the company’s subsidiary created to design, build, grow and invest in emerging mobility services. “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’s acquisition of Chariot, subject to normal customary closing conditions, will serve as the cornerstone for its new global shuttle services business. The shuttle service is expected to be expanded beyond San Francisco to at least five additional markets in the next 18 months.

Started in 2014, Chariot operates nearly 100 Ford Transit shuttles along 28 routes throughout San Francisco Bay Area. Today, Chariot’s routes are crowd-sourced based on rider demand. In the future, they will operate dynamically – using data algorithms to map efficient routes to best serve the real-time mobility needs of communities.

The Chariot shuttles complement mass transit by filling the gap between taxi and bus services – providing an on-demand, point-to-point transportation option that is convenient, efficient and cost-effective. For every one dynamic shuttle that is placed into service during peak travel times, urban congestion could be reduced by up to 25 fewer vehicles, according to a private study for Ford conducted by KPMG.

“Chariot’s mission from day one has been to solve the commute by providing a mass transit solution that is fast, reliable and affordable for people living in today’s cities,” said Ali Vahabzadeh, Chariot cofounder and CEO. “We started our Chariot service with Ford’s 15-passenger vehicles and continue to use Ford Transit shuttles to this day. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be Ford Smart Mobility’s first acquisition and leverage its leadership in transportation to fulfill Chariot’s goals worldwide.”

Bikes are another important mode of transportation for commuters in the Bay Area. Ford and Motivate, the global leader in bike share, are working with city officials to add new stations and increase the number of bikes to 7,000 in the Bay Area by the end of 2018. When it launches next year, Ford GoBike will be accessed by users through the FordPass platform.

“A transportation revolution is coming to the Bay Area,” said Jay Walder, CEO of Motivate. “This unique partnership with Ford shows that bike share is no longer alternative transportation; it is central to creating smart, on-demand mobility that represents our values for equity and sustainability. Thanks to the partnership of Metropolitan Transportation Commission, San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville, bike share will soon be available for all in the Bay Area.”

Ford plans to develop technologies to use data collected from the bikes to build an interconnected mobility network. This could include real-time data, such as weather conditions, usage patterns and bike availability, to optimize commutes.

Ford also is establishing its new City Solutions team to work with cities on expanding mobility services worldwide as part of Ford Smart Mobility LLC. John Kwant – who has worked with several global cities during his Ford career as part of the company’s government affairs and global strategy teams – has been tapped to lead the effort as vice president, Ford City Solutions.

The team will address the reality that each city’s transportation ecosystem has evolved over time and poses a unique set of transportation challenges. Through a joint discovery process, Ford City Solutions will work with municipalities to propose, pilot and develop mobility solutions tailored to the community. Discussions are already under way with several global cities.

Cars

Why sports cars make us feel good

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Forget romance, fine dining or an epic boxset binge – new preliminary research reveals that driving a sports car on a daily basis is among the best ways to boost your sense of wellbeing and emotional fulfilment.

The study measured “buzz moments” – peak thrills that play a vital role in our overall wellness – as volunteers cheered on their favourite football team, watched a gripping Game of Thrones episode, enjoyed a passionate kiss with a loved one or took an intense salsa dancing class. Only the occasional highs of riding a roller coaster ranked higher than the daily buzz of a commute in a sports car.

Working with neuroscientists and designers, Ford brought the research to life with the unique Ford Performance Buzz Car: a customised Ford Focus RS incorporating wearable and artificial intelligence technology to animate the driver’s emotions in real time across the car’s exterior. 

Watch the video here https://youtu.be/AFpt6jziFsU

“A roller coaster may be good for a quick thrill, but it’s not great for getting you to work every day,” said Dr Harry Witchel, Discipline Leader in Physiology. “This study shows how driving a performance car does much more than get you from A to B – it could be a valuable part of your daily wellbeing routine.”

Study participants who sat behind the wheel of a Ford Focus RS, Focus ST or Mustang experienced an average of 2.1 high-intensity buzz moments during a typical commute; this compared with an average of 3 buzz moments while riding on a roller coaster, 1.7 while on a shopping trip, 1.5 each while watching a Game of Thrones episode or a football match, and none at all while salsa dancing, fine dining or sharing a passionate kiss. 

For the research, Ford took one Focus RS and worked with Designworks to create the Buzz Car:

From concept, design and installation to software development and programming, the Buzz Car took 1,400 man-hours to create. Each “buzz moment” experienced by the driver – analysed using a real-time “emotional AI” system developed by leading empathic technology firm Sensum – produces a dazzling animation across almost 200,000 LED lights integrated into the car. The Buzz Car also features:

  • High-performance Zotac VR GO gaming PC
  • 110 x 500-lumen daylight-bright light strips
  • 82 display panels with 188,416 individually addressable LEDs

Driver state research

Researchers at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany are already looking into how vehicles can better understand and respond to drivers’ emotions. As part of the EUfunded ADAS&ME project, Ford experts are investigating how in-car systems may one day be aware of our emotions – as well as levels of stress, distraction and fatigue – providing prompts and warnings, and could even take control of the car in emergency situations.

“We think driving should be an enjoyable, emotional experience,” said Dr Marcel Mathissen, research scientist at Ford of Europe. “The driver-state research Ford and its partners are undertaking is helping to lead us towards safer roads and – importantly – healthier driving.”

Activity Buzz Moments *
Roller Coaster 3
Driving 2.1
Shopping 1.7
Game of Thrones 1.5
Football Game 1.5
Kissing 0
Salsa Dancing 0
Dining 0

* Average number of high-intensity buzz moments per participant

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Car that sees round corners

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Jaguar Land Rover is leading a £4.7 million (approximately R79 million) project to develop self-driving cars that can ‘see’ at blind junctions and through obstacles.

Britain’s biggest carmaker is leading a project called AutopleX to combine connected, automated and live mapping tech so more information is provided earlier to the self-driving car. This enables automated cars to communicate with all road users and obstacles where there is no direct view, effectively helping them see, so they can safely merge lanes and negotiate complex roundabouts autonomously.

Chris Holmes, Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover said: “This project is crucial in order to bring self-driving cars to our customers in the near future. Together with our AutopleX partners, we will merge our connected and autonomous research to empower our self-driving vehicles to operate safely in the most challenging, real-world traffic situations. This project will ensure we deliver the most sophisticated and capable automated driving technology.”

Jaguar Land Rover is developing fully- and semi-automated vehicle technologies, offering customers a choice of an engaged or automated drive, while maintaining an enjoyable and safe driving experience. The company’s vision is to make the self-driving car viable in the widest range of real-life, on- and off-road driving environments and weather.

AutopleX will develop the technology through simulation and public road testing both on motorways and in urban environments in the West Midlands. Highways England, INRIX, Ricardo, Siemens, Transport for West Midlands and WMG at the University of Warwick join the AutopleX consortium, which was announced as part of Innovate UK’s third round of Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Funding in March 2018.

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