The Dynamic Shuttle addresses many of the trends that worry carmakers. It involves smartphones — which many manufacturers fear are more important to younger consumers than cars — as well as sharing and public transport. It is designed to operate in cities, where cars tend to make less sense than in suburbs or rural areas.
Ford could either operate the Dynamic Shuttle service itself or license the technology to another provider. Mark Fields, Ford’s chief executive, is fond of pointing out that companies that become too focused on merely providing hardware — such as Finland’s Nokia — tend to lose out to others such as Apple that take more interest in how their products are used.
As well as trialling the Dynamic Shuttle, Ford has attached sensors to commuters’ bicycles to gather information for a model that would have electric as well as pedal power.
Ken Washington, Ford’s head of research and advanced engineering, says the carmaker’s mobility experiments could help to safeguard the company’s future if its traditional businesses tail off.