Ford Invests $4.5B in Electric Vehicles; Adds Ride-Sharing, Research Programs

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Ford Motor Co. has announced a series of investments and programs in new vehicles, research, and technologies, including sensor technology for motorcycles.

As part of a $4.5 billion investment in electric vehicle solutions, Ford is adding 13 new electric vehicles to its portfolio by 2020, its largest electric vehicle investment in a five-year period. Next year, Ford will introduce the new Ford Electric, which is projected to have a 100-mile range.

The automaker is also investing in market and social science-based research on how customers engage with its vehicles and gain insights into the factors that affect product design.

In addition, Ford is expanding its electric vehicle research and development program in Europe and Asia in an effort to accelerate battery technology.

“Battery technology has evolved rapidly since we launched our first volume electrified product, the Ford Escape Hybrid, in 2004, and we look forward to developing even better vehicle battery technology for our customers,” says Kevin Layden, director of electrification programs at Ford.

What’s more, Ford is piloting an on-demand shuttle service for its Dearborn employees with Transit vehicles that can carry six to eight passengers.

“The Dynamic Shuttle solution could fill the gap between a taxi service and public busing in cities around the globe,” says Erica Klampfl, global mobility solutions manager of research and advanced engineering at Ford. “It also could offer a valuable service in emerging economies, where growth is outstripping development of the public transport infrastructure.”

Klampfl says the pilot program in Dearborn uses four Transit vehicles that are equipped with Wi-Fi, USB charging ports for each seat, and personal storage space. The program currently operates off a dispatch-based platform, but next year, a mobile-friendly Web portal and smartphone app will be available to riders.

Once a ride request is made on the Ford-developed software, Klampfl says it determines the shuttle best suited to the needs of the request. The app then sends the rider an offer with information about the proposed ride with the estimated pick-up time and maximum duration of the trip. If accepted, Klampfl says the request is sent to the driver’s navigation interface.

She says the program, which is expected to expand, will help Ford’s research teams learn more about consumers’ attitudes about the service.

Ford also announced it will expand its use of sensor technology kits on motorcycles to help researchers and programmers better understand how cars, bikes, and other modes of transportation together can create new mobility solutions.

To that end, the automaker is using sensor kit to help Riders for Health, a nonprofit that manages motorcycles and ambulances used in the delivery of health care in African countries. The technology allows Riders for Health to track stops, timing, and routes for its work. The data is also being used to create maps of remote regions.

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