The problems facing urban transportation are as various and they are obvious. Parking is limited and expensive; traffic is crushing and bad for mobility; and smog levels continue to suffocate the population, creating collateral problems in public health. Nonetheless, car sharing programs have yet to catch on in America’s big cities where they seem to be a perfect fit. With the London-based GoDrive program featuring its greenest vehicles, Ford is presenting a solution for urban transportation that answers each of these problems on some level.
According to a company statement, Ford’s is taking its GoDrive car sharing service to the public in London as part of the automaker’s continuing efforts to improve mobility in urban centers. As many as 50 automobiles will be available for hire in 20 different locations around the city. The fleet is divided into half Focus Electric vehicles and the other half 1.0-liter EcoBoost Fiesta models, two of the automaker’s most efficient cars.
In the system Ford will launch in London, drivers will pick up cars for one-way trips that end with guaranteed parking at their destinations, a perk the automaker says is unprecedented among car-sharing operations. The pay-as-you-go system operates on a smartphone app and charges by the minute with tolls and congestion pricing included.
As a solution to the biggest problems with urban commutes, GoShare has its ducks in a row. High-efficiency vehicles offer a break on emissions compared to other types of cars, and the time saved by not looking for a parking spot makes it a reliable system for drivers who need to get to work (not to mention the emissions saved when you needn’t drive around looking for parking). Ford also sees it as a business opportunity.
According to research, the car sharing industry should grow to $6 billion by 2020, yet there are few programs in place in congested cities here and abroad. Looking at the options stateside, BMW’s DriveNow is limited to San Francisco while Daimler’s Car2Go is limited to Austin.
Ford sees its edge in the one-way trips and guaranteed parking, two of the big stumbling blocks for drivers considering car sharing for their transportation needs. (Companies like ZipCar in New York require round-trip traveling only, though a one-way beta program with Honda through ZipCar began late last year in Boston.)
Also attractive for urban dwellers who take pride in a low-emissions lifestyle is the presence of electric cars in Ford’s London program. Paying the price to keep a car in the city ensures you will drive more often than necessary; sharing a car through such a program allows city residents to drive only when necessary; and going zero-emissions make those trips more palatable. With no need to drive long-range, the current crop of electric vehicles will provide enough mileage and with parking waiting at the end of the trip, there is nothing to fear.
The economic opportunity is attractive for automakers, but the potential for traffic and emissions reductions should be as attractive to city governments looking for solutions to transportation and public health concerns. As of 2015, the situation is becoming untenable in most U.S. urban centers. A green, convenient system like GoDrive could go a long way in America. We’ll see which automaker seizes the opportunity.