Chariot Might Manage Ford’s Autonomous Vehicle Fleet, CTO Says

Ford Motor Co. is open to various forms of fleet management for its autonomous vehicles, which could include its own Chariot rideshare, Raj Nair, the automaker’s chief technology officer, said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York City yesterday.

Ford is currently working on deploying level 4 autonomous vehicles for ridesharing by 2021, which will not have a steering wheel, accelerator, or brake pedal; the vehicles will operate in a large metropolitan geo-fenced area.

The autonomous vehicles are part of Ford Smart Mobility, a subsidiary formed to design and invest in emerging mobility services — including on-demand rideshare Chariot, which Ford acquired in September 2016. So far, Ford has been working with Chariot to experiment with fleet management, Nair said. The OEM is also exploring the possibility of fleets being owned by municipalities or cities, as well as private entities.

“We’re experimenting with a couple different forms of [fleet management],” Nair said, and Chariot has been part of those experiments. Ford is also interested in selling fleets to cities and municipalities — similar to how cities currently own and operate public transit, he added.

On top of Ford’s interest in managing autonomous vehicles as a service for other entities, the company is also looking at personal transportation services, Nair said. These services could include a “multi-modal aspect, where that autonomous ride-hailing vehicle is just one mode of a person’s journey,” he added, which could indicate that Ford plans to manage its autonomous vehicles through Chariot — along with the possibility of more ridesharing or last-mile investments from Ford Smart Mobility.

Chariot is a key component in addressing the transportation needs of customers in various ways, Ford chief executive Mark Fields said in a published report. Currently, the rideshare operates in its home city of San Francisco, Calif., and in Austin, Texas, with plans to expand into eight U.S. cities within 2017.

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