Shared electric scooters are popping up across American sidewalks faster than dandelions after a spring rain and Ford has been feeling left out. Smart Mobility LLC, the business unit of the Dearborn-based automaker that is responsible for developing mobility service solutions has added to its portfolio with the acquisition of San Francisco-based scooter rental firm Spin.
“If you look at the data, the customer has spoken, in the U.S. alone, there are 240,000 trips happening on scooters daily, generating $1 million in revenue every day,” said Marcy Klevorn, president of mobility at Ford.
Ford Smart Mobility is responsible for developing the transportation services side of the business and developing new concepts and partnerships through Ford X. Smart Mobility already operates the Chariot microtransit service and Ford Go Bikes. Chariot is currently operating in nine cities in the U.S. plus London, England while the bike service is in San Francisco.
This isn’t Ford’s first endeavor into scooters. A separate academic research project in conjunction with Purdue University earlier this year spawned the Jelly service that is operating on that campus.
Spin is currently operating in 13 cities and campuses across the U.S. and plans to launch in Detroit on the day the acquisition is announced. In Detroit they will be joining Lime and Bird which launched here during the summer. Like its competitors which also include Uber, Lyft, Scoot and Skip among others, Spin operates a dockless system that allows users to unlock and rent a scooter using an app, picking it up and dropping it off anywhere in the service area. Spin will be charging $1 to rent a scooter and $0.15 per mile.
The whole dockless scooter rental business seems to have emerged from nowhere in just the past nine months after Bird and Lime dropped off scooters in cities such as San Jose, San Francisco and Santa Monica within days of each other. While the scooters are convenient, enabling riders to take short trips at low cost without waiting around for a car or dealing with traffic, they haven’t been trouble free.
In many of the cities where the scooters have appeared, residents and local officials have complained that they are littering sidewalks and riders are interfering with pedestrians. There are also safety concerns since most riders aren’t using helmets.
Spin was one of the first companies to launch in San Francisco last spring along with Lime and Bird. The city quickly banned all of the scooter companies while it set up a permitting process that limited access to only two companies. After a submission and review process, only Scoot and Skip were given permits to operate in the city.
Klevorn explained that Ford selected Spin because the company prefers to go in and partner with local officials where it sets up operations rather than just jumping in. Ford plans to expand the service to more than 100 cities over the next 18 months. While bike sharing is also expected to expand, Ford plans to stick with the current docked arrangement used in San Francisco to go along with the dockless scooters.
Another of the companies acquired this year by Smart Mobility is Autonomic. That company’s developers have been building a Transportation Mobility Cloud platform. This platform is designed to coordinate services and manage transactions across the ecosystem. Over the next couple of years, Ford plans to build apps that will enable travelers to access the full range of services and utilize what works best for any given trip.
In addition to Smart Mobility, Klevorn also oversees Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC with Sherif Marakby, the CEO of that unit reporting directly to Klevorn. Smart Mobility is developing services that span the pre-AV to AV landscape and the two business units will be coordinating closely as Ford prepares to start deploying its automated vehicles in the next few years.
“Spin supports our mobility strategy, Ford believes that freedom of movement drives human progress,” adds Klevorn. “That’s why our long-term strategy is to bring accessible mobility to urban environments and we want to do this through a portfolio of mobility solutions.”
Spn won’t add nearly as much to Ford’s bottom line as the F-150 does in the foreseeable future, but micromobility will be a crucial piece of a workable multi-modal transportation ecosystem in increasingly crowded cities.
More Info: forbes.com