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Ford buys into ride-sharing

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.

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Two-thirds of adults ready for cars that drive themselves

The latest Looking Further with Ford Trends Report reveals that behaviour is changing across key areas of our lives

Self-driving cars are a hot topic today, but if you had to choose, would you rather your children ride in an autonomous vehicle or drive with a stranger? You may be surprised to learn that 67 per cent of adults globally would opt for the self-driving car.

That insight is one of many revealed in the 2019 Looking Further with Ford Trend Report, released last week. The report takes a deep look into the drivers of behavioural change, specifically uncovering the dynamic relationships consumers have with the shifting landscape of technology.

Change is not always easy, particularly when it is driven by forces beyond our control. In a global survey of 14 countries, Ford’s research revealed that 87 per cent of adults believe technology is the biggest driver of change. And while 79 per cent of adults maintain that technology is a force for good, there are large segments of the population that have significant concerns. Some are afraid of artificial intelligence (AI). Others fear the impact of technology on our emotional wellbeing.

“Individually and collectively, these behavioural changes can take us from feeling helpless to feeling empowered, and unleash a world of wonder, hope and progress,” says Kuda Takura, smart mobility specialist at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. “At Ford we are deeply focused on human-centric design and are committed to finding mobility solutions that help improve the lives of consumers and their communities. In the context of change, we have to protect what we consider most valuable – having a trusted relationship with our customers. So, we are always deliberate and thoughtful about how we navigate change.”

Key insights from Ford’s 7th annual Trends Report:

Almost half of people around the world believe that fear drives change
Seven in 10 say that they are energised by change
87 per cent agree that technology is the biggest driver of today’s change
Eight in 10 citizens believe that technology is a force for good
45 per cent of adults globally report that they envy people who can disconnect from their devices
Seven out of 10 consumers agree that we should have a mandatory time-out from our devices

Click here to read more about the seven trends for 2019.

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At last, cars talk to traffic lights to catch ‘green wave’

By ANDRE HAINZLMAIER, head of development of apps, connected services and smart city at Audi.

Stop-and-go traffic in cities is annoying. By contrast, we are pleased when we have a “green wave” – but we catch them far too seldom, unfortunately. With the Traffic Light Information function, drivers are more in control. They drive more efficiently and are more relaxed because they know 250 meters ahead of a traffic light whether they will catch it on green. In the future, anonymized data from our cars can help to switch traffic lights in cities to better phases and to optimise the traffic flow.

In the USA, Audi customers have been using the “Time-to-Green” function for two years: if the driver will reach the lights on red, a countdown in the Audi virtual cockpit or head-up display counts the seconds to the next green phase. This service is now available at more than 5,000 intersections in the USA, for example in cities like Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland and Washington D.C. In the US capital alone, about 1,000 intersections are linked to the Traffic Light Information function.

Since February, Audi has offered a further function in North America. The purpose of this is especially to enable driving on the “green wave”. “Green Light Optimized Speed Advisory” (GLOSA) shows to the driver in the ideal speed for reaching the next traffic light on green.

Both Time-to-Green and GLOSA will be activated for the start of operation in Ingolstadt in selected Audi models. These include all Audi e-tron models and the A4, A6, A7, A8, Q3, Q7 and Q8 to be produced from mid-July (“model year 2020”). The prerequisite is the “Audi connect Navigation & Infotainment” package and the optional “camera-based traffic sign recognition”.

Why is this function becoming available in Europe two years later than in the USA? 

The challenges for the serial introduction of the service are much greater here than, for example, in the USA, where urban traffic light systems were planned over a large area and uniformly. In Europe, by contrast, the traffic infrastructure has developed more locally and decentrally – with a great variety of traffic technology. How quickly other cities are connected to this technology depends above all on whether data standards and interfaces get established and cities digitalise their traffic lights.

On this project, Audi is working with Traffic Technology Services (TTS). TTS prepares the raw data from city traffic management centres and transmits them to the Audi servers. From here, the information reaches the car via a fast Internet connection.

Audi is working to offer Traffic Light Information in further cities in Germany, Europe, Canada and the USA in the coming years. In the large east Chinese city of Wuxi, Audi and partners are testing networks between cars and traffic light systems in the context of a development project.

In future, Audi customers may be able to benefit from additional functions, for example when “green waves” are incorporated into the ideal route planning. It is also conceivable that Audi e-tron models, when cruising up to a red traffic light, will make increased used of braking energy in order to charge their batteries. Coupled with predictive adaptive cruise control (pACC), the cars could even brake automatically at red lights.

In the long term, urban traffic will benefit. When cars send anonymised data to the city, for example, traffic signals could operate more flexibly. Every driver knows the following situation: in the evening you wait at a red light – while no other car is to be seen far and wide. Networked traffic lights would then react according to demand. Drivers of other automotive brands will also profit from the development work that Audi is carrying out with Traffic Light Information – good news for cities, which are dependent on the anonymised data of large fleets to achieve the most efficient traffic management.

In future, V2I technologies like Traffic Light Information will facilitate automated driving. 

A city is one of the most complex environments for an autonomous car. Nevertheless, the vehicle has to be able to handle the situation, even in rain and snow. Data exchange with the traffic infrastructure can be highly relevant here. 

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