Ford buys shuttle service Chariot to dominate San Francisco’s transport system

Ford buys shuttle service Chariot to dominate San Francisco’s transport system

By Johana Bhuiyan

Ford CEO Mark Fields often talks about how the company is turning into “both an auto and a mobility company.” Now, as pressure from competition in the transportation space mounts, Ford has started to do more than just talk about the future of mobility.

Today, the CEO announced the automaker is acquiring crowd-sourced shuttle company Chariot.

Ford declined to tell us how much they paid for the San Francisco-based startup but said it was an all-cash transaction.*

The company is also partnering with Motivate — the company behind New York’s Citibikes — to create a bike-sharing program in San Francisco that would bring 7,000 of Ford’s “GoBikes” to the city.

At the Consumer Electronics Show last year, Fields announced a series of experiments called the Ford Smart Mobility Program, which is now its own subsidiary led by executive Jim Hackett. While not all those experiments panned out, among them were two that Ford is now bringing to fruition: The dynamic shuttle and a bike-sharing experiment.
As we approach our driverless future, these services have the potential to become indistinguishable commodities. Why choose one over the other?

For now, it’s all about taking over as many pieces of the puzzle as possible to create the greatest value for consumers. To that end, Ford developed an app called FordPass, which aggregates real-time data on transportation options including shuttles and bikes and suggests the best way to get from point A to point B.

Think HopStop (R.I.P.) or Google Maps, except the only way you’ll be able to access any of the Ford GoBikes is through the FordPass app.

“That will allow us to get people exposed to Ford who wouldn’t be exposed to Ford or even ever own a car, but there’s a way for us to serve a need for them and at the same time for us to have business opportunities,” Fields told Recode.

“We’re thinking about this as an ecosystem,” he continued. “How do the bikes not only serve a need, which is to get people around in a kind of a fun way, but also feed data that will allow us to provide them even more services? For example, if it’s going to rain, we can send them a note that says ‘you should take the shuttle, and here’s an incentive to do that.’”

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