Ford is reportedly working on a new ride-sharing smartphone app to rival companies like Uber, and is apparently also developing a new vehicle alongside it.
The rise of Uber has caused a significant stir in the automotive industry, paving the way for crowd-sourced transportation and making it easier for people to get around without owning a car.
Works on same principle as Uber
Ford’s concept works on the same principle as companies like Uber, where passengers can hail a vehicle to their location via a simple app, but with the addition of a new purpose-built ride-sharing car.
John Abernethy, head of Ford’s Advanced Product Group, said: “There is a white space for a new product. Between a taxi and a bus is a space for something else.”
The concept, which is being referred to as a “dynamic social shuttle” is one of around 24 experiments that the company announced last month as it aims to broaden its business ventures.
Further blurring the lines between manufacturers, tech companies, everyday drivers and taxi firms, Ford says that its new service could be faster than the bus and cheaper than companies like Uber.
Currently, the project is more of a research and development exercise than a fully-developed plan, but Ford says that it’s treating it seriously and is working out where it’ll fit into the current market.
“Part of the experiment is to establish exactly that,” Mr Abernethy said when asked what the ultimate market for the service is. “Within that range, we want to learn ‘what is the right role for this type of service?'”
For the last eight months, Ford has been hard at work developing the app and the new vehicle, which so far has been based on the Ford Transit van, with extra seats to carry up to 15 people.
The company’s vision is a service where passengers request a lift through the app, before the “premium minibus” vehicle arrives and takes you where you want to go, dropping others off en route.
Matches similar passengers
Apparently, it will also feature a sophisticated system to not only match passengers to nearby vehicles, but also to other passengers to ensure the ride goes as well as it can.
Mr Abernethy said: “People are willing to get into a subway or a mass transit system and press up against strangers, because that’s the expectation, although they might not enjoy it. You wouldn’t get into a vehicle this size and do the same thing.”
While there’s no set date for the project to be introduced, Ford says that it will continue on with the project to learn as much as it can, even if it eventually leads down a different route.
“Success will be the learning in itself,” the project’s head concluded, “and hopefully we will generate new business ideas out of it, or at least shape our future thinking.”