Ford Getting Into Bike-Sharing and Shuttles, Because Why Not

Ford has been at the forefront of the automotive industry, with cars like the Mustang and the Focus, and trucks like the F-Series. But now, the company is expanding into bike-sharing and shuttles.

Ford announced today its plans to acquire Chariot, a private, crowdsourced shuttle service out of San Francisco, in addition to investing in Motivate, a bike-sharing programs that ranks as one of the biggest services of its kind in the country. The company will also create a new division focused towards “mobility solutions” in major metropolitan cities. The company is aiming to begin Chariot operations in San Francisco, and then expand service to five more cities over the next 18 months, while adding 7,000 new bikes through Motivate in the Bay Area. In particular, the company is looking to add “Ford GoBikes”, which feature access to the FordPass app.

Ford Getting Into Bike-Sharing and Shuttles, Because Why Not

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Ford envisions both the private shuttle and bike-share programs synced up with one another, which means “users have the opportunity to shift back and forth for all kinds of different reasons, if weather changes their priorities or we have different incentives if we want to move people in the system differently,” said Jim Hackett, chair of the company’s spinoff company, Ford Smart Mobility LLC.

Chariot, which has been operating in San Francisco since 2014, is part of a recent trend of bus startups that use algorithms to develop transit routes based on user demand. Using the app, customers can book a seat in one of the companies blue-and-white shuttle vans for around $4 a trip.

And unlike its flashier, more tricked-out competitors, Chariot has managed to successfully navigate the twin challenges of high-stakes venture capitalism and municipal bureaucracies to emerge as one of the only bus startups left in the Bay Area. Chariot founder and CEO Ali Vahabzadeh, as well as the rest of the company’s leadership, will move over to Ford to work on the build-out.

Hackett said he hopes Chariot can fill in the gaps in cities’ transit maps, as well as compete with increasingly popular (and cheap) carpooling services like UberPool and Lyft Line.

“If you think of mass transit on the lefthand of the page, and private car ownership on the right, you know the livery systems, the Lyfts [and] the Ubers, are more expensive to operate per mile than your own personal car, and mass transit is the cheapest,” he said. “This shuttle is next-in-line as the most efficient to mass transit. Cities are going to love this because it’s going to be highly accessible based on pricing.”

It’s a pretty smart move by Ford. Sure, cars are their bread and butter, but it doesn’t hurt to have back-up revenue streams. They could also hit a goldmine if these types of services turn out to be the next big thing in transportation.

But what do you think? Is this a smart move for Ford or a waste of money? Sound off in the comments!

And for more automotive news, read up on the latest recall of Ford vehicles totaling over 1.5 million cars/trucks pulled!

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