Ford’s app-based ‘Chariot’ shuttle service is offering its final rides

Chariot

Chariot, the app-based crowdsourced shuttle service owned by Ford, has announced it is closing down in the coming weeks. The company will end its public bus-like service, which operates in five U.S. cities including San Francisco, New York, and Chicago, on February 1, and overseas in London on January 25. Services for corporate customers in five additional U.S. will end by March 30.

The company promised it will make every effort to refund all remaining credit balances when its shuttle service ends. In a blog post on Thursday, Chariot marketing coordinator Samantha Pann declined to offer a specific reason for the service’s demise, saying only: “In today’s mobility landscape, the wants and needs of customers and cities are changing rapidly.” Chariot launched in 2014 and was acquired by Ford two years later for £65 million.

It employed just over 600 people in the U.S., with more than half of them located at its base in San Francisco. The app-based service used algorithms to determine routes based on demand, with its vehicles each able to carry up to 14 passengers. Pick-ups were scheduled and rides cost £4 per trip.

But the business appears to have found it hard to compete with the convenience of ridesharing services such as Uber, which ramped up the pressure last year with new offerings like Uber ExpressPool, an option offering cheap fares to riders willing to walk a short distance to a pick-up point and share a vehicle with others heading in the same direction. Chariot has also experienced operational issues in some cities. In San Francisco, for example, the company’s permit was suspended for a short period in 2017 after officials reportedly found three drivers to be working without the necessary bus license.

And then in 2018, again in San Francisco, the company was prevented from operating along some popular routes serviced by the city’s public bus company. “Chariot was built on a commitment to help reduce congestion, ease the commute, and improve quality of life in cities, and since our start, we have provided our customers with more than three million rides,” Pann said in her post. She added that the company had helped Ford to build its mobility business, and that Ford’s experience with Chariot will continue to inform its mobility efforts and design decisions.

Ford’s other endeavors in the mobility space that go beyond its traditional manufacturing activities include a partnership with Uber rival Lyft on the development of an autonomous car, as well as with Chinese tech giant Baidu on a similar project.

It recently acquired scootershare service Spin, too, and also sponsors the Lyft-owned, Motivate-operated GoBike bikesharing service in San Francisco.

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