Ford rein­vents the wheel with cir­cu­lar Carr-E

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - SCOTT COL­LIE

AS crowded city cen­tres and con­gested main roads be­come even more crowded and con­gested, a grow­ing num­ber of car man­u­fac­tur­ers and trans­port com­pa­nies are look­ing to de­velop com­pact last-mile so­lu­tions. Ford threw the com­mute co­nun­drum over to its em­ploy­ees in the Last Mile Mo­bil­ity Chal­lenge, which re­turned over 600 ideas. Among the fi­nal­ists is the Carr-E.

It might be small, but the Carr-E has an im­pres­sive set of ca­pa­bil­i­ties. De­signed by a sys­tems engineer based in Cologne, Ger­many, it’s able to carry peo­ple or ob­jects weigh­ing up to 120 kg at up to 18 km/h. Range is lim­ited to 22 km, which should be more than enough to scoot from a car park to the of­fice or train sta­tion.

Be­ing able to carry hu­mans is one thing, but the Carr-E also shines as a load-lug­ging de­vice. Hav­ing piled it up with cargo, own­ers can slip a bea­con into their pocket and start walk­ing, at which point the cir­cu­lar lit­tle scooter will start fol­low­ing them.

Ul­tra­sonic sen­sors on the front of the unit give it ob­sta­cle-avoid­ance ca­pa­bil­ity, and there are func­tion­ing lights on the front and rear. There’s even built-in GPS, al­though there’s no word on what role it serves (per­haps so own­ers can track a stolen Carr-E, or for au­ton­o­mous trundling be­tween start and des­ti­na­tion points).

“We re­ally need to rein­vent the wheel, to find new ap­proaches to mo­bil­ity,” says de­signer Kil­ian Vas. “When de­vel­op­ing the Carr-E, I was in­spired by Ford’s ex­pan­sion into both an auto and a mo­bil­ity com­pany, but I’m also aware of how rapidly cities are grow­ing and how get­ting around ur­ban ar- eas will be­come pro­gres­sively more com­pli­cated. I re­ally wanted to cre­ate a de­vice that makes com­mut­ing eas­ier and more fun.”

Ford, or more specif­i­cally Kil­ian Vas, isn’t alone in ex­plor­ing the con­cept of car-in­te­grated last-mile trans­port. Audi showed off a long­board that can be stored in the bumper of a Q3 SUV ear­lier this year, and the fold­ing Peu­geot De­sign eF01 bike can be docked in the boot of the 5008 SUV.

Ford isn’t the only com­pany to en­cour­age its em­ploy­ees to ex­plore their cre­ative side ei­ther. To­day, Daim­ler an­nounced a pop-up plat­form for cre­ativ­ity, where em­ploy­ees can sit down with a coach and flesh out any ideas they might have about the fu­ture of the brand.

The Carr-E is up against an elec­tric trike and a semi-au­ton­o­mous elec­tric wheel­chair in the fi­nals of the Last Mile Mo­bil­ity Chal­lenge.

We’re wait­ing for news on when the win­ner(s) will be an­nounced, and if any of the de­signs will go on to pro­duc­tion.

PHOTO: FORD

The Carr-E is a fi­nal­ist in Ford’s Last Mile Chal­lenge.

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