Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Ford's "Smart Mobility" Doesn't Seem So, ahhh... (F)


From Wolf Street:
....Here is a quick rundown of select “Smart Mobility” misadventures during the period over which Ford’s vehicle sales have plunged by 19%:

Sep 2016: Ford’s newest and much ballyhooed initiative, “Ford Smart Mobility,” made its first acquisition, van-shuttle startup Chariot, that was trying to get folks in San Francisco interested in its van service. Ford expanded this service with a lot of hoopla to numerous other cities, and to other countries, and after having thrown enough dough at it, shut it down unceremoniously in January 2019.

Nov 2016: Ford (Ford Motor Credit) picked up a shut-down San Francisco startup, rebranded it Canvas, and made a go of a car-subscription service. Car subscription apps were becoming the latest Silicon Valley thing. Startups and other automakers were piling into it. It’s easy to put an app together. It’s tough to make money in the car-subscription business. In Sep 2019, Ford sold Canvas to Fair, a Softbank-backed car-subscription unicorn that has no intention of ever making any money. Financial details were not disclosed, but Ford ended up with an equity stake in the startup. Good luck.

Feb 2017: Ford announced that it would invest $1 billion over the next five years in artificial intelligence startup Argo AI to develop the “virtual driving system” for Ford’s autonomous vehicles that were supposed to be mass-produced by 2021. A lot of additional patience will be required.

Jun 2017: Ford, in collaboration with Motivate, launched a bicycle-sharing service, Ford GoBike. A year later, Lyft acquired Motivate. There are now Lyft-branded bikes cluttering sidewalks, and the Ford GoBikes have vanished.

Sep 2017: Ford announced that it was partnering with Lyft “to take self-driving cars mainstream.” More patience required.

Late 2017: Ford launched GoRide Health, a shuttle service to service skilled-nursing facilities and hospitals, transporting patients in wheelchairs, etc. So that’s a good cause, but a money-losing one. The company lost $288 million in Q1 2019, according to Ford, cited by Reuters at the time. Nevertheless, In May 2019, Ford announced grand plans to expand the service nationally. But in December 2019, Ford shut down the service.

Jan 2018: Ford acquired startups Autonomic (“transportation architecture and technology provider”) and TransLoc (“builds technology to support “microtransit” services, including, real-time tracking, demand modelling and response analysis, as well as consumer-facing mobile apps and services.”) Ford said at the time: “All of those components are important pieces of the puzzle for something like the Transportation Mobility Cloud, which Ford hopes will be adopted by partners including other automakers, public transit providers, and service operators including ride-hailing and ride sharing companies.”

Jan 2018: Ford announced that it would “realign” its misbegotten “Mobility Group.” One of the key initiatives was in ride sharing. It would make Chariot – yes, the now defunct Chariot – “the cornerstone of Ford’s microtransit solutions.”

Nov 2018: Still undeterred by reality, Ford Smart Mobility acquired San Francisco dockless electric-scooter-sharing startup “Spin.” It’s “a leading micro-mobility service provider, with operations in 13 cities and campuses across the US,” Ford said at the time. In July 2019, it announced that it would use bigger, sturdier, and less dangerous scooters that don’t instantly fall apart, but might last a few months, or something….