Ford’s shuttles aim to fill Uber void in London
FORD is gearing up to launch a bus network in London, gatecrashing the capital’s crowded transport market and establishing a new rival to Uber.
The company’s Chariot service hopes to tempt smartphone-savvy commuters away from Uber and public transport by providing fixed bus routes along commuter hotspots. However, the service is likely to face significant opposition from established taxi and minicab firms, and may struggle to gain approval from Transport for London (TFL) amid Uber’s bitter row over its own licence being revoked.
Unlike other ride-sharing apps, which call minicabs to specific locations on demand, Chariot is closer to a traditional bus. It will run 15-seater shuttles along fixed routes and pick passengers up along the way. The app allows people to pay with their smartphones and collects data to help design new routes, targeting those that are underserved by existing public transport networks.
Ford already operates the service in San Francisco, Seattle, Austin and New York but is planning to expand abroad in the coming months. Its website shows the company is recruiting a general manager for London, which it describes as its “first international location”. It has also hired Nico de Luis, who formerly ran ondemand domestic cleaning service Hassle in the UK, as its London-based international launch manager.
Its planned entrance comes at a turbulent time for ride-hailing apps in London. Uber was stripped of its licence in October when TFL accused it of a string of safety failures, although it continues to operate as it appeals the decision.
Taxify, an Estonian rival, was forced to suspend operations just days after launching in the capital. Other operators have applied for licences but complain TFL is dragging its feet, saying it is reluctant to allow more cars on to London’s crowded streets and accusing it of favouring the black cab trade.
Lyft, Uber’s US rival, has been meeting TFL officials ahead of a planned launch, as revealed by The Sunday
Telegraph in October. Chariot was founded in San Francisco and bought by Ford for $65m (£50m) last year. The deal is part of the company’s plan to extend its reach into “mobility services” as it faces the prospect of consumers buying fewer vehicles in future.
“We continue to explore additional markets as part of Chariot’s expansion plans, but do not have any news to share at this time,” Ford said.
It is not believed to have applied for a licence yet.