LAS VEGAS — Ford plans to offer cities networks and technology to smooth the flow of goods and people as ride hailing and automated delivery services are making congestion worse, the U.S. automaker's top executives said on Tuesday.
In addresses at the CES technology show here, Chief Executive Jim Hackett and Marcy Klevorn, executive vice president for mobility, said Ford wants to build a "transportation mobility cloud" and technology that would allow cities, fleet operators and others to use a shared platform to manage vehicles and connect people to different types of transportation.
"Nobody else is talking about providing an open community like this for mobility," Klevorn said. She asked CES attendees to work with Ford to develop systems to improve "transit choreography."
In a blog post, Rich Strader, Ford's vice president for Mobility Product Solutions, and Sunny Madra, CEO of Ford's software partner, Autonomic, said the common technology platform could be used to build applications or run fleets of connected vehicles.
Cities could re-route traffic away from congested streets, or make sure that self-driving cars are not cruising around searching for passengers, exacerbating traffic jams, Strader and Madra wrote.
Ride services companies and advocates of self-driving vehicles have argued that the shift away from human-driven, personal vehicles would result in less congestion. Auto industry executives talk of a world with "zero congestion."
A study of New York City traffic released in December concluded that 59 percent more ride hailing cars and cabs were operating in the city center in 2017 than in 2013. One-third of those vehicles were empty, according to the report by consultant Bruce Schaller, a former New York City transportation official.
New York officials are weighing various proposals to counter the trend, including assessing fees on ride services companies.
Cities such as London are also considering or instituting new fees aimed at curbing traffic.
Ford partners with Postmates to test autonomous deliveries
Ford, meanwhile, announced it will partner with delivery service Postmates as the automaker starts later this year testing in a U.S. city how to transport people, food and packages using its self-driving cars.
Ford's plans challenge the ambitions of ride services companies like Uber and highlight how automakers and those with roots in the tech industry are forging separate paths to build businesses enabled by self-driving cars.
While Ford has a partnership with ride-hailing company Lyft, the automaker is focusing on itself moving goods for businesses large and small, Jim Farley, president of global markets, and Sherif Marakby, Ford's head of autonomous and electric vehicle development told Reuters in an interview.
"We're testing the business model" for goods delivery, Farley said. Initially, Ford plans to use vehicles with human drivers to test how to run services that would eventually use automated vehicles.
Ford will expand delivery partners beyond Dominos Pizza and San Francisco-based Postmates, Farley said. The automaker sees small businesses as a significant potential market and a natural next step after decades of catering to commercial van and pickup buyers, he said.
In an address at the CES technology conference in Las Vegas, Farley outlined a concept for self-driving vehicles to pick up and deliver packages from multiple small businesses on a single trip. The key for making profit, Farley said, is keeping the cars moving.
"Any time you are not carrying goods or people in this business you are not making money," Farley said.
The automaker has not named the city where it will begin testing its approach.
Reporting by Joseph White and Alexandria Sage