Ford to launch Uber-like shuttle service for employees

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. on Monday will launch a new Uber-like app and shuttle service to help employees get around its Dearborn offices and buildings.

The automaker said its “Dynamic Shuttle” service will be run with four customized Transit vans. They are expected to carry about 300 Ford employees a day.

To use the service, employees simply open up the app on their smartphones, select the building they want to go to and their current location, and wait for a ride. An algorithm determines which shuttle is closest and tells the driver where to pick up passengers.

Its current shuttle service, which uses a call-in number and dispatcher to connect employees with rides, uses about 21 vans and carries employees to 129 locations.

“Dynamic Shuttle is a major step forward on Ford’s mobility journey, which is designed to lead the company to develop truly innovative and disruptive ideas for diminishing traffic congestion and making public transit more convenient and accessible,” said Ken Washington, vice president of Ford research and advanced engineering.

The customized Transits were designed after research was done at Ford facilities in Dearborn, California and the United Kingdom. Among the findings: Riders want Wi-Fi connectivity for their laptops and smartphones, and they prefer a center aisle — like in a bus — to easily get in and out of seats.

The goal of the employee-only pilot is to one day expand it and potentially sell the service to companies with large campuses or with multiple locations in big cities. Unlike Uber, which offers just the phone application, Ford could have the ability to offer the entire service, including the software and the vans.

The shuttle is one of Ford’s 25 mobility experiments, announced by Ford President and CEO Mark Fields last January. The experiments cover everything from car-sharing to parking spot-finding apps. Last summer, the automaker moved from the “experiment” phase to the “pilot” phase for a couple of the experiments, including the GoDrive car-share service.

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