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Ford rides mobile wave into ebike app, car-sharing program

Ford Motor?s reveal of a new prototype electric bike with complementary smartphone and smartwatch applications seeks to ease urban commutes while continuing the automaker?s efforts to attract mobile-savvy millennial buyers.

The unveiling of the ebike app, which will provide real-time information about weather, traffic, parking and public transportation, comes on top of Ford?s announcement it would launch a pilot car-sharing program in six United States cities and London for customers who finance their vehicles through Ford Motor Credit. With the announcements, Ford, known for its AppLink smartphone-integration system, burnishes its reputation as a technology-focused car brand, an image that resonates well with younger buyers attracted to the idea of an all-in-one automotive platform for software, service, content and applications.

?Ford is looking at multi-modal mobility solutions since consumers are increasingly using several different modes to transportation to get where they need to go,? said a spokesman for Ford, Dearborn, MI. ?The ebike combined with the prototype app, MoDe:Link, allows for a connected journey that is more efficient, safer and healthier and enables journeys to be completed with less anxiety and stress.?

Folding up
Ford revealed no details about when the bike would be available to the public, or to which marketplaces.

Ford?s MoDe:Flex ebike can be reconfigured for different customer needs. Its center frame assembly includes the motor and battery, while the front and rear assemblies and wheels can be configured for road, mountain or city riding. 

Ford?s MoDe:Flex ebike.

The foldable bike can be stored inside Ford vehicles, where it can be charged while stowed.

Like the MoDe:Me and MoDe:Pro eBikes Ford introduced in March, MoDe:Flex connects with a rider?s smartphone via the MoDe:Link app. The app harnesses real-time information regarding weather, congestion, parking costs, time, traffic and public transportation. 

It includes eyes-free navigation through haptic feedback on the handlebar, route planning and health and fitness information. It also can identify the most efficient and cost-effective mode of transport for a journey. 

A new extension of MoDe:Link for a smartwatch will bring the real-time data and functionality to the ebike rider?s wrist. 

The smartwatch extension fincludes the ?no sweat? mode, which increases electric pedal assist based on heart rate ? ensuring riders get to their destinations without breaking a sweat. 

The wearable device also provides safety notifications. Hazards, such as potholes ahead, are signaled through vibrating handlebars and a beeping alert from the smartwatch. 

Ford said that 14,000 United States customers will be invited to join its pilot car-sharing program, along with 12,000 in London. U.S. customers will partake through ride-share company Getaround, while London customers will use easyCar Club. The program will run through November. 

The pilot is being offered to select Ford Credit customers in California ? including Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco; as well as in Portland, Oregon; Chicago and Washington.

Ford's announcement comes as automakers are trying to contend with people being less reliant on vehicle ownership. 

A study by Penn Schoen Berland showed that one third of U.S. millennials are interested in renting out their own belongings as a way to supplement their income, Ford said. Young Americans rank car rides second only to book lending as things they are most open to sharing, according to the study.

Sharing rides
More than half of millennials report being open to sharing rides with others.

?In urban environments, consumers, including millennials, are increasingly using several modes of transportation to get where they need to go ? or multi-modal mobility solutions,? the Ford spokesman said. ?Through Ford Smart Mobility, Ford is studying how electric bicycles and mobile apps can work seamlessly with cars and public transport to deliver faster and easier daily commutes. 

Seeking to offer a simpler journey.

?Also, it provides flexibility with other Ford mobility experiments allowing a bicycle owner to think about sharing a vehicle to provide more options than what?s currently available by cycling alone.allowing a bicycle owner to think about sharing a vehicle to provide more options than what?s currently available by cycling alone,? he said.

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York