The motor industry is on the ‘cusp of a mobility revolution’ that will fundamentally change the nature of travel and reshape Ford, according to the firm’s president and chief executive officer.
Mark Fields has set out a vision for the company in a post car-ownership era where shared access to vehicles is the key strategy to keep traffic flowing in highly populated urban areas.
Speaking at the Los Angeles motor show, he said the event itself was a clear example of the changing shape of travel; it has been rebranded AutoMobility LA.
He said: ‘We are attending the first major auto show in the world that is not just about cars. It is an amazing sign of what is happening all around us.’
Ford has decided to take an ‘expansive view of mobility’ by using its historic understanding of travel requirements to shape its future plans.
An example is the 90-minute window for travel.
Fields argues that, over centuries, humans have typically travelled for 90 minutes or less per day. What has changed is the distances they can cover in that time, from a handful of miles by foot to nearly 100 by car.
The problem is congestion and the time that adds to journeys - time which could otherwise be used more productively.
Fields said: ‘In Los Angeles, commuters can easily spend more than an hour each way getting to work. That is two hours out of the day when you are trapped in traffic.
‘Over a lifetime, that is nearly 25% of your free time – the hours you are not working or sleeping.
‘And it is going to get worse. Some estimates say population growth will increase total miles driven by as much as 25% by 2040. Imagine if we focused on optimising roads for the total number of people on them instead of the total number of vehicles. How would that affect the transportation solutions we develop?
‘What would a city look like if more people were using shared services versus personally-owned vehicles?’
Ford is already investing in shared vehicle services, such as app-based flexible ride-sharing service Chariot.
It also sees ride-sharing and ride-hailing services as the future for autonomous vehicles in a mobility services market worth more than €5 trillion.
With its vision in place, Ford needs to ensure there is a structured market to meet its strategic shift into mobility services.
From 2017, the company will be working with cities around the world to develop transport initiatives for all travellers, not just the current community of Ford owners. This will build on services that have already been developed, including FordPass.
Fields added: ‘Cars are still important. But while we will continue to make vehicles, they are no longer our entire game.
‘Leading in these mobility solutions and working together with cities is good for our business.’
Fleet sales will remain a critical part of Ford’s strategy as a provider to local authorities, emergency services and large end-users such as taxi firms and major companies, but mobility services will take a growing share of revenue.
Ford will hold a series of meetings with city authorities, urban planners and community leaders in 2017r. It will also work with philanthropist and business magnate Mike Bloomberg on developing initiatives.
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