Ford announced today that it's piloting an on-demand ride-sharing service for its employees that the company says can have an effect on communities far beyond its Dearborn, Michigan headquarters. In the long term, it argues, shuttle services like this could help reduce traffic across the country.
How, exactly? Well, Ford isn't saying much beyond what it revealed in a short video announcement Thursday that showed employees using their smartphones to summon the company's blue-and-black Transit Connect vans, which they are calling "Dynamic Shuttles." Ford says it has 21 shuttles in operation, servicing 129 locations and 300 passengers a day.
Ford's Dynamic Shuttles are powered by an evolving algorithm that is "learning constantly based on the data we're collecting," says George Verghis, a data scientist at Ford. Occupancy rates, traffic conditions, weather, and shuttle availability are compiled and analyzed by Ford's data team. The goal is to "reduce the number of single riders on the road," Verghis says.
A car company wants to help ease traffic congestion
Most intriguingly, Ford teases the possibility of using this new technology to help improve transportation in cities that lack mass transit or suffer from chronic congestion and gridlock — which sounds strange coming from a company that's ostensible goal is to sell as many cars as possible.
"All of us began to see this had a much greater importance than just our locale," says Greg DeGorsky from Ford's IT Rapid Response Team. "This could aid a lot of communities globally."
During last January's CES, Ford announced that it was testing ride-sharing systems in London, New York, Germany, and India, as well as by-the-minute car rental services akin to Car2Go. The programs are part of the Smart Mobility Initiative that Ford says will help the car company compete in a world in which the lines between transportation and technology are blurrier than ever.