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Ford invests in Autonomic to make open-source mobility service platform

The automaker’s future transit apps will likely use the platform

Photo: Ford

Ford has taken a stake in Silicon Valley’s Autonomic to be the basis for the automaker’s future mobility efforts.

In its investors report last week, Ford said it had made an investment in Palo Alto-based Autonomic Inc. to build a basis for future iterations of mobility services that will use Ford vehicles, such as its Chariot service that employs Transit vans, as part of the company’s plan to move people through cities in every way, according to CEO Jim Hackett.

“The platform would allow us to build services, as well as others, because the platform would be open to cities and other services,” Ford Smart Mobility communications manager Alan Hall told The Verge. “The layer that Autonomic provides is non-differentiated services.”

In addition to Chariot, Ford has partnered recently with Dominos and Lyft, as well as a non-emergency medical service in Michigan to assist patients who do not drive. While none of these services use an Autonomic platform now, Hall said it’s possible future iterations will — especially new services Ford expands across the country.

Some of the people who were involved with Autonomic were also involved in the development of Amazon Web Services, Hackett said last week.

Therefore, things like mapping, routing, payments, and identity authentication would be built into the platform that’s then open sourced. But an automaker such as Ford, with a wide variety of vehicles, could then supply the car you’re riding in.

“That’s where we as Ford can provide the difference,” Hall said. “We have the vehicle. We can provide it. We can modify it.”

An official announcement will come shortly, Hall said, but Ford is going its own way when it comes to mobility. Behind the curve set by General Motors and others on autonomous drive, it really is looking at other ways of moving people around cities — and selling a few more cars, trucks, and vans in the process.