Ford’s Journey to the Future — as told by Mark Fields

The heaviest hitter to grace the Automobility LA 2016 Stage (11/15–16) was none other than Ford’s CEO, Mark Fields. Starting with a ViewMaster worthy review of Ford’s vision for the future through the years. He repeated the oft-stated maxim that throughout the course of history, an individual’s time spent on daily travel has stayed relatively the same, only the distance has changed with the advent of newer, faster modes of transport….on foot, by horse, carriage, street cars, personal motor car, and now we are due for a change.

Ford is taking an expansive view of mobility. Some of their hope:
1) people are enriched by time spent in vehicles rather than stressed
2) roads are optimized for the people rather than the vehicles
3) cities are reinvented when cars are shared rather than owned

In September, Ford made two strategic moves toward reimagining urban mobility. It acquired Chariot, a dynamic fixed route vanpool, based in San Francisco. And it invested in Motivate to fuel a massive expansion of Bay Area Bike Share which will be renamed Ford GoBike. These deals give Ford a better Metro offering to solve the “first/last mile” transportation issues in the Bay Area. They are also extremely complementary to municipally offered mass transit. This must be music to the “labor first” market of San Francisco which has a love-hate relationship with the Ubers, Lyfts and Google-busses which reduce the need for congestion-causing, personal cars, but are typically seen as competition to MUNI or disruptive signs of the old and new San Francisco.

In the coming months, Ford will launch their City Solutions Team onto the San Francisco Bay Area. This team is working with Mike Bloomberg’s Coalition of Mayors and the Aspen Institute. They want to bring public and private solutions together into a transportation system that will improve peoples lives. After San Francisco, the City Solutions Team will expand across the globe to help cities solve their transportation issues.

Why does Ford want to look to urban mobility? Fields says this is good for their core business. have city relationships from building rescue, police, city vehicles and taxis. By strengthening these relationships and creating the platform to augment existing mass-transit, they will be uniquely positioned to continue that momentum when autonomous vehicles are unleashed. Fields has said repeatedly that this is less than five years away — 2021 for ride sharing and ride hailing.

Ford skipped choosing a partner in the ride and car sharing dance, but they are in it for the long haul. When fully autonomous vehicles (Level 5 — no steering wheel) are available, Lyft and Uber will face the two-pronged issue of 1) capital outlay to acquire the vehicles, and 2) what to do with the labor. As a manufacturer uninvolved in ride share, they are sitting pretty.

There’s only one piece missing to help make this work as a total solution — the app….stay tuned.