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

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