Published on December 18th, 2015 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Ford’s Uber Plan For 2016
Ford wants to develop ride hailing services that could compete with existing players such as Uber or Lyft, the company’s head of research said last week Thursday.
“Our vision is to be a mobility service provider, beyond building a vehicle that would be in somebody else’s fleet,” said Ken Washington, Ford’s vice president of research. “We see this as a business we want to be in.”
Washington spoke at a media event at which Ford unveiled a pilot program that will allow employees working at the company’s Dearborn, Mich., operations to use smartphone apps to hail rides from one building to another in specially designed Ford Transit vans.
Without offering specifics, Washington said Ford is considering expanding the van hailing service beyond its corporate campus, offering an alternative to rides in private cars or journeys on city buses.
Ford earlier this year outlined a series of moves to expand beyond manufacturing cars and trucks. The automaker, like established rivals General Motors or Daimler AG, is under pressure from investors to demonstrate that it can survive attacks on its business model from ride-hailing upstarts such as Uber, or electric vehicle pioneer Tesla Motors Inc.
One advantage Ford has, Washington said, is that it can design and manufacture vehicles so they can work “seamlessly” with software designed to connect riders with vehicles, or eventually drive autonomously.
Washington said Ford expects within four years to field a vehicle that can drive itself with the driver “fully out of the loop.” However, he qualified that by saying the vehicle could operate on its own in the right weather conditions. One concern automakers have is that the sensors that enable a self-driving car to see the road will not work properly in snow or rain.