Ford's shuttle startup Chariot to end operations
- Chariot, a shuttle startup founded in 2014 and purchased by Ford in 2016, announced in a blog post on Thursday it will shutter all of its operations by March. Services in the U.K. will end on Jan. 25, and services in the U.S. will end on Feb. 1.
- Chariot CEO Dan Grossman wrote in the post, "In today’s mobility landscape, the wants and needs of customers and cities are changing rapidly." He went on to apologize to customers for the inconvenience that this decision may cause, and to thank customers, partners and employees for their support.
- In an interview with Crunchbase, Chariot spokesperson Erin First said the business was "not sustainable" moving forward. Some Chariot employees may be retained by Ford to work in other divisions.
In the few years that Chariot was a player in the mobility landscape, it built connections with large markets across the U.S. In April 2018, San Francisco issued a conditional private transit operator permit to Chariot, and in October 2018, King County, WA (home of Seattle) launched a yearlong microtransit pilot with Chariot — which will now be cut short. Chariot also had services in Detroit, New York and Chicago, among other markets.
In January 2018, Ford CEO Jim Hackett touted the company's mobility portfolio — including Chariot — during a keynote speech at CES. The Verge reports Chariot was also a focal point for Ford at events like the Detroit Auto Show, as the company defended its potential to address consumers' transportation needs as they shift in the era of shared mobility.
While the downfall of Chariot may come as a surprise to some, the business has been struggling for quite some time, at least in the New York market. In August 2018, Streetsblog called the service "a big, expensive failure," noting the average ridership in the city was as low as five riders per vehicle per day.
It's too soon to say what the downfall of Chariot will mean for the private microtransit industry, but it is unlikely to shake Ford's determination to boost its mobility portfolio and expand into new offerings. Ford's most recent acquition of Spin helped to move the automaker into a more competitive landscape with the likes of Uber and Lyft, and just this week the company committed to deploy C-V2X technology in all of its new vehicles, starting in 2022.
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