Ford and the future of transportation

Ford has bought the Spin electric scooter fleet management company for $100 million, adding to its growing portfolio of mobility acquisitions. A few months ago, the car company launched Jelly, which provides dockless electric scooters on the campus of Purdue University, and one of the many that have filled the streets of many US cities with scooters. Spin has a contract with Ninebot (owned by Segway) to buy 30,000 scooters a month in order to scale up its operations.

Ford has also bought Chariot, a ride-hailing shuttle service, along with Autonomic and TransLoc, technology companies working on transport architectures for microtransit services, a term that includes technology enabled transit services offering flexible routing and programming systems, usually for minibuses. These acquisitions have been carried out by the Ford X subsidiary, an incubator designed to study Ford’s role in a future where car ownership is a thing of the past.

Ford’s acquisitions makes two things clear: the first is the transition from the current inefficient and ecologically unsustainable model of car ownership to hiring transportation when we need it. After almost a century of the previous model, we can expect resistance from some quarters, but there is no doubt that this is a change we urgently need to make.

The second is that electric scooters make the most sense for micromobility, journeys of up to five kilometers, which are mostly made at the present using cars. Electric scooters can play a big role in avoiding these trips, which generate traffic congestion and use up valuable space for parking, as well as polluting our air. As more and more companies in this sector attract financing, it is clear that this is more than a fad and that we need to redesign our cities accordingly, which means making less space available for private cars and making more and more areas of our cities available only to non-polluting two-wheelers such as bicycles and scooters.

The situation in our cities means we have to act now, rather than trying to hold on to unsustainable transportation models. City Halls need to understand the need for this transition and commit to it, generating a change of mentality regarding transportation models that have become a threat to all. Asking for more time means prolonging an absurd situation. The future of transport is radical change, and those who do not understand this and instead want a slower pace of change or who can’t see any further than today, are now the common enemy.

(En español, aquí)