Ford is expanding its car-sharing presence in London. Tuesday, the company launched its GoDrive U.K. car hire service that offers one-way trips with guaranteed parking. It’s the latest car-sharing experiment underway by the automaker, which already operates programs in Germany and India in addition to Car Swap in Dearborn, Michigan and Dynamic Shuttle in New York.
The newest London service is an expansion of its City Driving On-Demand pilot project. The pilot experiment launched with 100 registered members, but Tuesday’s launch will now allow 2,000 people to register for a free expanded service offering 50 cars across 20 locations.
It’s a pay-as-you-go approach, with pay-per-minute pricing that covers all fees, including insurance and fuel. Drivers reserve and access cars through a smartphone app. The zero-emission Focus Electric makes up half of the GoDrive fleet and the fuel-efficient Fiesta will also be available.
Ford says initial testing will focus on one-way journeys, easy parking and the simplified pricing. Overall, it is trying to get a feel for people’s interest in car-sharing, their habits and interest in electric vehicles.
“As cities become more and more congested, people are becoming increasingly open to new means of mobility, and car sharing is proving to be an appealing model,” said Ken Washington, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. “A crucial part of delivering effective car-sharing services is to learn alongside these drivers what best meets their needs and expectations, and complements their location and existing transportation infrastructure.”
The automaker expects the global car-sharing market to exceed $6 billion by 2020. It’s estimated that in the U.K. alone the car-sharing sector will grow by 23 percent from 2013 to 2025.
“Our research tells us that car clubs currently are perceived as inflexible when it comes to booking, time slots and return locations. Features such as one-way journeys and pay-as-you-go extend the number of opportunities that drivers would want to car-share and could prove a game-changer,” said Alicia Agius, project lead, GoDrive, Ford of Europe. “More drivers are finding GoDrive to be a key service that can potentially empower people living in the city with its flexible approach.”
In the U.S., Ford currently operates two car-sharing experiments. The Dynamic Shuttle offers a point-to-point pick-up and drop-off on-demand. The experiment aims to better understand the social dynamics and routing requirements of shared transportation for city dwellers. Ford employees in Dearborn are testing out Car Swap. They use a mobile app that allows them to search for a vehicle that meets their needs and negotiate terms of the swap.