Ford Motor Co. said Thursday it will be the exclusive vehicle provider for urban mobility company Bridj as it expands to Kansas City next month.
Bridj currently operates in Boston and Washington, D.C., and lets users call for shuttle rides with up to 14 passengers through an app. Ford will provide 10 Transit vans to Bridj for its “Ride KC: Bridj” pilot program, which goes live next month through a partnership with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.
It’s the latest example of the Dearborn automaker’s experimentation in alternative mobility that goes beyond traditional car ownership. Ford executives have said Ford will likely partner with a number of startups and other tech companies as it expands beyond its traditional role as an automaker.
“Today, we are bringing another transit option to the region with the introduction of microtransit,” Robbie Makinen, KCATA president and CEO, said in a statement. “By combining the intelligence of Bridj technology with capable and flexible Ford Transit vehicles, we are creating a seamless and borderless transportation network for our residents that is easy to use, comfortable and affordable.”
Ford said this is the first U.S. public-private partnership that brings together a major U.S. transit agency, an automaker and an urban technology company to enhance a mass transit system.
Ford’s fleet of Transits used in the program will be modified with a custom 14-passenger seating layout and custom-installed large running board for passenger convenience.
“Our goal is to make people’s lives better by changing the way the world moves,” Erica Klampfl, global mobility solutions manager, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, said in a statement. “The Ford Smart Mobility plan supports our commitment to innovation, and is aimed specifically at developing smarter mobility services. We are excited that Ford Transit was selected for Ride KC: Bridj because this is one of many projects that will help us gain insights into what works and develop smarter, more connected mobility solutions and service-oriented products.”
The Bridj partnership is the latest for Ford, who has been exploring various alternative mobility options since launching its Smart Mobility program in January 2015.
Ford recently started offering a shuttle service for employees in Dearborn, and this month started a pilot program in Austin, Texas, that will offer group leases for between three to six people who would share the vehicle.
Its crosstown rival General Motors Co. is a major player in the mobility space, as well. GM has invested half a billion dollars in ride-sharing service Lyft, purchased the assets of failed ride-sharing service Sidecar and formed its own car-sharing service (similar to Zipcar) called Maven.