Ford has agreed to acquire Chariot, an on-demand shuttle service based in San Francisco.
This morning, the automaker said it would expand Chariot’s shuttle service beyond San Francisco to at least five more markets in the next 18 months. At the moment, Chariot operates 100 Ford Transit shuttles along 28 routes in the Bay Area. It chooses routes by collecting votes from potential riders, but Ford also said it will move to a more complex algorithm in the future. The goal of a service like this is to fill the gap between taxi and bus services, which are often woefully inadequate for point-to-point transportation in some cities.
The acquisition is part of a larger business deal that includes collaborating with bike-sharing provider Motivate and establishing a new City Solutions team to work toward transportation solutions with cities globally. “Partnering with cities on current and future transportation needs is the next major step,” Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, said in a statement. “We want to work with communities to offer even more transportation choices and solutions for people—for decades to come.”
Its yet another agreement between an old-school car maker and a new-age ride service. GM recently invested $500 million in Lyft in the hopes of developing a fleet of autonomous cars. Volkswagen poured $300 million in the Israeli ride-hailing startup Gett. And Toyota partnered with Uber to explore a ride-sharing collaboration. On-demand startups from Uber to Lyft are changing how people move around cities, and in order to stay relevant, traditional car makers want their hooks into this new world.
At same time, car companies are looking towards the inevitable future where cars drive themselves, and these cars may ultimately power services like Uber and Lyft. GM’s $500 million investment in Lyft is all about self-driving cars, and Ford has said it intends to deliver a fully autonomous vehicle for ride sharing by 2021. Well, Chariot could tie right into that future.