On stage at his CES keynote this morning, Ford CEO Mark Fields and product development VP Raj Nair announced that the company is testing ride-sharing systems in London, New York, Germany, and India — in other words, systems that would help you not buy a Ford. In some of the tests, cars — half of which are emission-free — are available to rent by the minute, which is a bit like Car2Go in some US cities. Additionally, Ford is testing "dynamic social shuttles" — think UberPOOL — where registered users can request pickups and drop-offs on demand. In Banglaore, India, another test allows multiple drivers to share a single vehicle, akin to fractional ownership.
An odd fit for a company that makes money selling more cars
The programs are a part of the Smart Mobility initiative that Fields announced this morning, a collection of some 25 "experiments" Ford is testing around the future of transportation. Supporting ride-sharing systems might seem counterintuitive for a company that survives on selling cars, but Ford's love for systems like this is well-documented: chairman Bill Ford, in particular, has praised Zipcar for ages.
In its hometown of Dearborn, Michigan, Ford is also testing something it calls Car Swap — basically an app that helps you find a car that meets your needs. "The car you own may not fit all of your needs all of the time, such as when you need to haul landscaping material or move a child to college," Ford says, so you could use the app to find a bigger vehicle and use it for a while after negotiating a deal with the owner.