CES: Ford Bets on Autonomous Cars, Ride Sharing

Michael Walker
Ford CEO Mark Fields

Ford CEO Mark Fields says the company will target the $5.4 trillion transportation services category, including peer-to-peer ride sharing, as it transitions from traditional car manufacturing.

Saying that Ford will "completely rethink how we approach the business," CEO Mark Fields said the company would target the $5.4 trillion transportation services category, which includes ride sharing and nontraditional forms of car usage and ownership.

Citing changing consumer preferences and a middle class expected to double in size by 2030, Fields said that the company is "completely rethinking how we approach the business." The exec made his remarks at a press conference Tuesday prior to the opening of the 2016 CES show in Las Vegas.

While Ford will continue to invest in its core business manufacturing cars and trucks as well investing $4.5 billion in 13 new electric vehicles by 2020, the company will focus more attention on the transportation services sector, which includes ride- and car-sharing services targeted at Millennials, whose indifference to traditional car ownership is causing the industry to rethink its business models.

Ford, said Fields, controls 6 percent of the traditional automobile market but zero percent of the growing transportation services segment. "It's a massive opportunity," he said.

Ford launched 30 mobility experiments last year, including flexible use and a pilot program in London offering one-way, pay-by-the-mile car sharing with guaranteed parking. The program revealed that electric vehicles were most popular with drivers in their 30s and 40s, and that 97 percent said they would use one again.

Fields said Ford was continuing to develop autonomous vehicles that would be completely self-driving in certain environments, such as a controlled access freeway. There was intense speculation before CES that Ford would announce a partnership with Google to build its autonomous car, but Fields would only say the company was working with several companies on its autonomous program.

Fields also said that Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system would be compatible with Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto starting with the 2017 model year. CarPlay and Android Auto allow a smartphone's user interface to be displayed on a car's infotainment screen.