Big Three automaker Ford is getting into a distinctly 21st century business: electronic ride-hailing.
The Dearborn, Mich.-based company is looking to a more automated driving future by designing an on-demand service for vans that shuttle passengers from one destination to the next. The service, called the Dynamic Shuttle Experiment, would automatically respond to consumer demand by intelligently modifying the cars’ route, according to BuzzFeed:
[Ford CEO Mark] Fields told BuzzFeed News that Ford is working on a ride-hailing service of its own and that it’s nearing commercial viability. Called the Dynamic Shuttle experiment, it’s an app-based service for which Ford would provide a fleet of vehicles that pick up and drop off passengers along a route that is dynamically determined based on the demand from users. “First off we have the vehicles,” Fields said. “Secondly the app itself is pretty advanced and we’re actually iterating as we go. And thirdly, there’s inherent demand for it.”
BuzzFeed reports Ford’s system is “nearing commercial viability,” but it isn’t clear if the project is anything more than an internal experiment to learn about the future of transportation. The rise of on-demand transportation startups like Uber and Lyft, along with new driverless car technology, have led some to question whether the current paradigm of car ownership will last more than a few more decades.
Still, while Fields told BuzzFeed he thinks Uber and Lyft have been “very successful,” he said he doesn’t believe the “world is all going to go to car sharing in a compact period of time.” Ultimately, Fields said Ford is destined to “pivot to a certain degree from just being a core hardware business to providing a service.”
In its most recent report, Ford posted earnings of 26 cents per share, beating Wall Street’s expectations of 23 cents per share. The company posted $52 million in net income, falling from $3.07 billion year-over-year, though the company’s 2013 results got a bump from a $2.1 billion tax item.