Ford is no longer an automaker. Sure, the company still produces vehicles just like every other manufacturer, but for the last three years, the brand has considered itself a “mobility company.”
To most of us, that sounds like typical marketing gibberish, but Ford’s actions have largely aligned with its message. Outlined in its Smart Mobility Plan, Ford has focused on improving infrastructure for autonomous (self-driving) vehicles and has looked beyond simply making cars for people to drive or be driven in. Running the company (since May of 2017) is James Hackett, a veteran executive who helped focus Steelcase on innovative technologies and customer needs. Every move seems to swing Ford further from its product-centric roots towards a software-first philosophy.
But while cars may be easy to understand, seeing how Ford’s repositioning impacts the average consumer is harder to grasp. Fortunately, the company’s latest partnership has a very clear benefit for the average Joe. At CES 2018, Ford announced a partnership with on-demand delivery company Postmates.
“As the first on-demand partner for our self-driving vehicle program, we’re setting out together to explore new ways in which this technology can serve people living and working in our communities by offering more efficient deliveries, and by connecting more consumers to smaller and local businesses,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford’s vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification.
Ford hopes to level the playing field between small and large businesses by expanding access to goods. Postmates’ Uber-like fleet of vehicles is already helping in this regard, quadrupling sales for some retailers and helping low-income communities (where perhaps families can’t afford a car) access a broad range of goods. With the help of Ford’s self-driving cars, which won’t be limited by driver fatigue or specific hours of operation, Postmates could dramatically increase its reach.
Ford and Postmates will initiate pilot programs this year to see what, if any, on-demand delivery improvements are made thanks to autonomous vehicles. Ford will evaluate the experience for both merchant and consumer. If all goes according to plan, Ford, Postmates, business, and consumers will benefit. This model may even lead to other self-driving case studies.
Here’s a look at what it takes to build Ford’s next generation of the Fusion Hybrid, the latest development in the autonomous vehicle line:
Feature image courtesy of Ford.