When Ford bought up San Francisco-based public transit alternative Chariot last year, the automaker promised to roll its private commuter shuttle service out to even more cities in 2017. Today at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Ford CEO Mark Fields stepped up that goal to include eight new cities in 2017, plus one outside the US.
Fields didn't specify yet which cities Chariot's Ford Transit shuttles would be popping up in, but as he told TechCrunch the company plans to analyze the needs of each market before adding service. As the newest piece of Ford's Smart Mobility subsidiary, Chariot currently operates in San Francisco and Austin, running along popular morning and evening commute routes. The service falls somewhere between ridesharing and public transit -- riders use a smartphone app to secure seats, but they still have to catch the bus at a certain time along the prescribed route. In San Francisco, at least, the company started with one line and added more as demand increased and the company is currently running a test program to get people around Lake Tahoe.
While a new ridesharing option might be a godsend for many weary commuters in the short term, in the long term Ford hopes to improve infrastructure as a whole through closer partnerships between cities and transportation providers. And with the goal of launching autonomous ridesharing by 2021, those Chariots could be driving themselves in the next five years.