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Ford’s Go!Drive car sharing on-demand experiment in London entering beta phase

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Ford’s Go!Drive on-demand car sharing experiment apps allows users to register, select a vehicle and pay through a mobile app. Click to enlarge.

Ford’s Go!Drive car sharing on-demand experiment in London is entering its beta phase, which will entail ramping up the fleet from 20 to 50 units and beginning to look at different elements of customer access around car sharing, including pricing and incentives in terms of how the car sharing model and operate smoothly and efficiently, according to Alicia Agius, product innovation manager of Ford Europe.

Go!Drive was originally announced as “City Driving On-Demand” and is one of the original set of 25 Smart Mobility experiments announced by Ford CEO Mark Fields at CES in January. (Earlier post.) While there are many car-sharing services based on the reservation model, the focus of this experiment is on-demand use, as well as gaining understanding about EV preference—half of the Go!Drive fleet is Focus Electrics, the other half Ford Fiestas with EcoBoost engines. Go!Drive provides guaranteed parking and one-way rentals; there is no membership fee and the cost is 17p/min ($.26/min). The target is to have more than 2,000 Londoners in the program.

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Ford found that the customers prefer the car to be minimally branded, as they wanted to feel as if the Go!Drive cars were theirs when they were driving them. Click to enlarge.

Users can register, get directions to the nearest service location, select a vehicle and pay through a mobile app. The experimental service is targeting a better customer experience and improved operational efficiency compared to existing car-sharing models.

The project is an open demand sharing project, Agius said, as opposed to the peer-to-peer or closed sharing models used in other locations.

This is closely related to the rise of the sharing economy, and particularly for younger people who may prefer not to own commodities. It is also about Ford having access to new user groups, particularly young Gen Ys who live or work in London and who would not typically own a car.

—Alicia Agius

The Go!Drive experiment is structured in three phases:

  • The alpha phase, which just ended, entailed bringing in a smaller number of vehicles, establishing a small user group, and getting up and running.

  • Beta phase 1, which is just beginning, is the first main experiment, entailing investigation into different aspects of the sharing model.

  • Beta phase 2, expected to begin around September, will start looking at multi-modal integration as well as integration with another of the Ford Smart Mobility experiments on smart parking. (Earlier post.)

Ford will collect a wide range of data during the Go!Drive project such as journey type, duration and length, and also investigate the basis for customer choices—how they are choosing different vehicles and why.

This helps us understand about barriers to adoption for electric vehicles and also helps us understand about the operational implications of using EVs vs petrol. It will also help us make the vehicles a better fit to car-sharing operators needs.

—Alicia Agius

With the caveat that the project is just emerging from a small alpha phase, and that the data set is relatively small and preliminary, Agius said that Ford is already seeing some initial patterns.

One thing is crystal clear: there is a huge learning curve with the first use of sharing just in general. Learning to use the service for the first time, using the app, finding a car … there is a huge learning curve for first time use. Typically people choose the petrol vehicle for the first rental; it is one less thing to have to engage with for the first time. Then then quite quickly want to try an electric afterward. Once people have tried it, then there is a tendency to stay with electric.

We want to understand a little more about why people are taking a car, what the purpose of the trip is, what would they have used if not the car, so we implemented a post-rental survey. As part of the receipt after a drive, there is a survey link. We give them some driving credit in return for doing it. That’s helping us get of the softer part of the data, helps us understand the choice between petrol and electric. That’s going to be really helpful for us. All these mobility projects are experiments, focused on learnings.

—Alicia Agius

Operationally, the majority of the Ford Go!Drive locations have charging points; some were already installed, others Ford installed. The locations alsohave staff to clean and check the cars.

The EVs have a range of about 80-100 miles; typical trips the Ford team has seen so far are about 5-10 miles. For the gasoline vehicles, Ford provides a free fuel card. However, so far, as the typical drive profile is quite short, no one has used the fuel card yet, Agius noted, given that the program is still young.

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