Ford’s solution for the ‘last mile’
Traffic in most major cities are, let’s face it, usually atrocious. But most cities, especially the ones centuries old, were just not made to handle the amount of modern-day traffic. How often do our journey decelerate greatly when we reach the city centre – the last mile – to our destination? Such is the reality that entrepreneurs, designers and even automakers are now thinking of solutions to overcome that last mile congestion.
At the recent Mobile World Congress, Ford revealed concept models that could potentially be added to its model lineup; they are, unexpectedly, bicycles. Of course, if they from Ford, they are not just any ol’ bicycle but ones that have been equipped with an electric motor, decked out in the latest technology backed by industry experience, and has a corporate-crafted sales pitch.
According to the American automaker, this is their exploration of how bicycles can complement car and public transportation. Ken Washington, Vice President of Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, said, “There are so many ways to get around a city, but what is really needed is a way to connect all of these transport options together.
“Being able to seamlessly move between cars, buses, trains and e-bikes and react to changing traffic situations can make a big difference both for commuters and for those delivering goods, services and healthcare.”
The foldable electric-bikes come in two variants – the MoDe:Me is a small and light bike with tiny wheels and is collapsible into the size of a knapsack that can be easily toted around town and on the train, or even fitted into Ford’s compact Focus; the larger MoDe:Pro is a foldable two-wheeler for couriers and delivery services, and can accommodate a rear storage compartment. Both bikes are powered by 200-watt electric motors that can take over pedal power for a leisurely ride of up to 15mph. There’s even a “No Sweat” mode that adjusts the electric pedal power to suitably match the rider’s heart rate so that you can coolly arrive at the office looking as if you’ve been dropped off by a chauffeur.
Ford, being a seasoned carmaker, injected some automotive-type safety technology into these prototype bikes, like rear-facing sensors that will cause the handlebars to vibrate when a vehicle closes in from behind.
Bikers can hook up with the interactive world using a concept iPhone app – the MoDe:Link. The app includes a navigation feature that riders can use to find the most ideal route using a combination of pedaling, petrol and public transport. During the cycling leg of the journey, the app signals the next direction change by causing the left or right handlebar to vibrate, and the signal lights also flash automatically; this, we think, is absolutely marvelous for we live in a country where most vehicle drivers don’t seem to know what the signal lights are for.
The e-bikes aren’t the sleekest that we’ve seen of their kind, but the technology tacked on is certainly exciting. They will remain prototypes for now, but if they ever enter production, it won’t undercut their four-wheeler sales and can even be marketed on as an add-on option with every Ford car. That’s more money for Ford, and that is probably what the automaker is also thinking of when they came up with these sophisticated electric bikes that we wish we could have.