From the invention of the wheel to the horse-drawn carriage, and from the Model T to the cars of today, human history has been shaped by innovations in transportation. Today, the transportation landscape of the past is colliding with radical technology innovations that may once again reshape how the world moves.
A survey conducted across Asia Pacific on behalf of Ford Motor Company found that consumers are driving these changes as technology gives them new and easier ways to plan their journeys, whether using private or public transportation – or a combination of both.
“Smartphones are rapidly assimilating into our lives on the road, and Ford Smart Mobility is all about finding innovative ways to improve people’s lives by delivering smarter, more convenient access to mobility options,” said John Larsen, director, Ford Smart Mobility, Ford Asia Pacific.
Ford Smart Mobility is the company’s plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics. Ford is undertaking research and development across the technology and transportation landscape, including in-car connectivity, flexible ownership models and car-sharing programs, autonomous vehicles, and much more.
“Mobility challenges are local in nature, and although no two places have the same suite of issues and opportunities, technology solutions can come from anywhere in the world,” said Larsen. “We’re looking at different transportation environments and trying different things, which might mean experimenting with a new car-sharing model, or developing a mobile platform where people can consider different transportation options and make the decision that’s best for them at any given time. It’s all about exploring every option.”
Tech on the road
Regionally, one in four respondents to the survey said they use a ride-hailing app more than once a week to get around. Respondents in China and India were the most likely to use ride-hailing apps (both 28 percent). On the other end of the spectrum were Australia and New Zealand, where respondents reported low ride-hailing app usage. Only 5 percent of Australians and 3 percent of New Zealanders said they regularly use apps to book a car.
Across the region, use of these apps is on the rise, with 32 percent of respondents reporting increased use over a year earlier. India (42 percent) and China (33 percent) were the main drivers of the upward trend, with New Zealand (7 percent), Taiwan (9 percent) and Australia (12 percent) reporting the lowest increase in use.
Car-sharing programs are also becoming more popular, with one in five respondents in the region saying their participation in shared-car platforms had increased from a year earlier. Indian respondents were the most likely to report higher use of car sharing, at 33 percent, followed by China (19 percent) and Malaysia (16 percent).
“For many, especially in urban environments, car-sharing programs can offer significant benefits. We’re looking at different sharing models in the U.S., Europe and here in Asia Pacific to explore ways of improving what it’s like to take part in car sharing,” said Larsen. “In India, for example, we’re running a Ford Smart Mobility experiment to explore a model for easy vehicle sharing among close-knit groups like families or colleagues.”
Taxi Hailing apps gaining popularity in India
The survey showed that Indian respondents are embracing emerging transportation modes in droves. Use of ride-hailing apps and car-sharing programs in India has grown rapidly: Both categories saw the largest usage increases out of all markets surveyed across Asia Pacific. More than four in 10 respondents said they use ride-hailing apps more than they did a year earlier, and one in three said the same about car-sharing programs. Increased use of all the transportation modes broke down as follows:
- Private car: 47 percent of respondents
- Ride-hailing apps: 42 percent
- Taxi: 35 percent
- Bus: 34 percent
- Car-sharing programs: 33 percent
- Subway, tram or train: 31 percent
- Electric scooter or motorbike: 31 percent
- Motorcycle taxi: 21 percent
Despite the growth of new transportation modes, more traditional modes still remain popular in India. Half of respondents said they travel by private car regularly – meaning more than once a week – and slightly less than half said they take the bus on a regular basis (47 percent). Thirty-two percent said they regularly take taxis, followed by the subway, tram or train (29 percent), ride-hailing apps (28 percent) electric scooter or motorbike (26 percent) and motorcycle taxis (17 percent).
One in four Indian respondents said they regularly use car-sharing programs to get around – the highest reported in any of the markets surveyed.
Of transportation modes that have become less popular, buses took the largest hit, with more than one in four respondents saying they take the bus less than they did a year earlier. Buses were followed by taxis (19 percent) and subway, tram or train (18 percent).
Indian respondents were the third-most-likely to take more than one form of transportation on a single trip every day (44 percent), with an additional 25 percent saying they did so more than twice a week. Only 3 percent said they don’t ever use multi-modal transportation, the second-lowest of all countries surveyed, behind the Philippines.
Ford innovations, for the transportation of tomorrow
The motivations behind Ford Smart Mobility are four global megatrends that are reshaping the world: explosive population growth, an expanding middle class, air quality and public health concerns, and changing customer attitudes and priorities.
Finding solutions for this diverse but interconnected set of challenges requires a wide range of initiatives. As people rethink what it means to own a car in an increasingly crowded world, Ford is investigating car-sharing programs around the globe, including undertaking a research project in Bangalore, India.
For the Bangalore experiment, Ford partnered with ZoomCar to explore car-sharing in small communities like neighborhoods, families or workplaces. Data collected by specially equipped Ford EcoSports will be used to analyze driver behavior and information about how the vehicle was used. This will help to develop new models for vehicle scheduling and ownership management within car-sharing platforms.
Ford Smart Mobility encompasses innovations that are already available in Ford vehicles around the world – including Ford’s in-car connectivity system, SYNC, and semi-autonomous features such as Adaptive Cruise Control – as well as long-term research projects like Ford’s fully autonomous vehicle program. By the end of this year, Ford will have the largest fleet of autonomous vehicles of any auto manufacturer, with 30 self-driving vehicles being tested across different climates in the United States. Recent tests required Ford’s autonomous vehicles to operate in the dark without the use of headlights, and subjected them to snowy conditions in an industry first.
Ford also recently announced FordPass, a platform that reimagines the relationship between automaker and consumer. FordPass is designed to give users access to mobility services through the FordPass Marketplace, pay for such services with FordPay, interact with personal mobility assistants night or day with FordGuides, and accrue membership rewards. The FordPass platform also includes FordHubs, storefronts where consumers can learn about Ford’s latest mobility innovations.
Ford has been a leader in in-car connectivity since 2007, when SYNC first debuted in Ford vehicles. The first generation offered simple voice controls to make and receive phone calls, and to control features like music and the radio – all while helping drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. The latest generation, SYNC 3, delivers even more intuitive voice control, as well as integration with SYNC AppLink, which lets drivers use voice commands to control smartphone apps from the driver’s seat.
“Whether it’s making calls on the move, looking up real-time traffic information or booking a car on an app, technology is rapidly changing how we get around,” said Larsen. “At Ford, we’re looking into ways to integrate these innovations into our products, in order to make mobility more convenient and accessible for everyone.”