Mobility and Self-Driving Cars and Ford

Yesterday, Ford parted ways with CEO Mark Fields, and promoted Jim Hackett to the top spot.

Hackett is an interesting person for a lot of reasons. One reason is Hackett’s one year run as head of Ford Smart Mobility, LLC, immediately prior to now.

I’ve seen news outlets reporting that Hackett was head of Ford’s autonomous vehicle program, but that’s not quite right.

Ford Smart Mobility is a mobility-focused subsidiary that looked at combining everything from bikes to van shuttles to trains to autonomous vehicles into a seamless mobility service.

The LLC is more of a small standalone business unit, whereas Ford’s autonomous vehicle team, headed by Randy Visintainer, is housed within Ford Motor Company proper.

This distinction raises the question of which is the key market — self-driving cars, or mobility as a service?

Traditional mobility has been delineated by different companies owning different modes of transportation — the railway company is different than the car company, which is different than the bike or bus company.

Will technology change that in the future? Or is the future pretty much about self-driving taxis, with people using bikes and trains and planes more or less as they always have?

I’m not quite sure. Certainly, as people give up their personal cars and rely on ridesharing, there perspective on other forms of transportation changes. If your self-driving taxi company can’t take you 200 miles to your weekend getaway, and you don’t have your own car, maybe you need a seamless solution. Or maybe you just call Hertz.

It’s not obvious that Ford or Hackett will bank on broad mobility over pure self-driving cars, but it seems like a possibility.

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