The next big things Why cars sometimes aren’t the answer
Sarah-Jayne Williams, Ford of Europe’s Smart nd Mobility director, has some congestion-beating ideas
> WE’RE AIMING to become the most trusted mobility brand in the world.
> THE VISION Henry Ford originally had was that freedom of movement actually drives human progress. If you take the examples of [congested] cities today, that’s no longer true.
> WE WANT to continue to provide freedom of movement in cities but in ways that don’t contribute to the challenges that cities have around air quality and congestion.
> BY THE middle of the century two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. In London, by 2040, we’re expecting the population to grow by two million people. That equates to about six million extra journeys a day. That certainly cannot be fulfilled by the idea of someone driving around cities. The vision of everyone suddenly switching to autonomous vehicles and driving freely around the city is not achievable. It will be closer to having an autonomous caravan to park up – read your book in an autonomous vehicle!
> WE HAVE a dedicated team of 40-plus people in London looking at how we innovate, focused on urban environments. Smart Mobility was originally set up in the US. Jim Hackett – who is now our global CEO – ran it. The thinking around mobility is really embedded top-down in everything we do.
> WE’RE WORKING with cities, starting two or three years ago, to find new ways of moving both people and goods through cities. We have a trial running with plug-in hybrid electric vans – set up to switch automatically into EV mode in the city – which started in London in January and then Valencia starts later this year. These are prototype vehicles with real customers. The vehicles are connected, and we talk to the drivers weekly. We’re getting real-world experience in the city and outer urban areas, to finalise the product before we take it to market.
> AND CHARIOT [set up in San Francisco in 2016, now owned by Ford] launched on four routes in London earlier this year. It uses 14-seater Transit mini-buses, licensed to go into bus lanes, getting people from areas under-served by public transport to a public transport hub, taking people out of private cars. You hail and pay through an app, and there’s a guaranteed seats and luggage space and Wi-Fi.
> IT BECOMES interesting for us where the smart car intersects with the smart city.
> A JOURNEY will often start with a car but continue in other ways. Is your priority speed or price or getting some work done?
Ford-owned Chariot ride-hailing minibuses are on trial in London, championed by Williams, pictured with Ford chief Hackett