Could the newest Ford be a bicycle?
One of the most exciting innovations Ford is working on is it’s commitment to what it calls “The Multimodal Journey.” CEO Mark Fields talked about this at the Further with Ford conference held recently in Silicon Valley; Ford sees the challenges that commuters, delivery companies and bicyclists have in cities and the auto maker has an answer: e-bikes built to integrate with other urban mobility systems.
There are three different e-bikes, all of which connect with smartphones and apps. MoDe:Me, MoDe Flex and MoDe:Pro. Prototypes were displayed at Ford’s Research and Innovation Center in Palo Alto, and each is designed to reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and shorten commutes.
Ford first announced its Smart Mobility initiative at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last January, and challenged its engineers to design e-bikes. The three prototype bikes are the ones Ford deemed to show the most promise.
Sensors and eyes-free navigation put safety first
One of the ways the e-Bikes keep riders safe is with eyes-free navigation; you put your destination into the app on your phone and handlebar vibrations tell you when to turn. The handlebar lights up when you have an upcoming turn, to alert drivers that you are turning. The handlebar also vibrates (with a different feel) when a car is approaching you from behind; a rear-facing sensor detects a vehicle.
The eBike MoDe:Pro and MoDe:Me both have a low step over, so if you fall, you won’t get tangled up in a cross bar.
Auto technology – in a bike
Ford has incorporated some its vehicle designs into the bikes; the LED lighting is a scaled down version of the lights used on the F-150.
Headlights and mud guards are integrated into the bicycles, too; like a car you can drive off the lot, and the bikes are ready to ride, without additional accessories.
The e-bikes all have a central computer with a built-in navigation system called MoDe:Link, which will provide multiple route options. You enter a destination on your smartphone, and the system drops a pin where you park, then shows you how to continue your journey most efficiently. The MoDe:Link also lets you see see remotely how much juice the battery has left.
MoDe:Pro – will Seamless adopt this?
The MoDe:Pro is one of the more exciting innovations: a bicycle designed for commercial use. The bike has a box on the back to carry tools or deliver goods. Imagine your plumber showing up on a bicycle! But then, it makes sense – whenever I wait for a contractor, plumber or electrician, he is delayed because he has to find free street parking. And if he has to move his car or dash out to feed a meter and I am paying an hourly rate, I wind up eating the cost.
And speaking of eating – the bike is ideal for urban delivery of food or other small goods.
The Pro eBike is designed to fit easily into a Ford Transit (actually, two will fit), and it can charge in the van. The van can also store goods–deliveries, tools or other goods –and serve as a central service point for bike deliveries; riders can load up, make a delivery and return the to van to load up the next delivery.
MoDe:Me, for commuters
The MoDe:Me, aimed at commuters who live too far from work to bike the whole way, offers a compromise; you can fold the bike up and drive part way, then bike the rest. And for those who are not up to the physical exertion of biking, the eBike’s battery provides a boost.
The bike also has a cool ‘no sweat’ mode which ramps up the battery assist as you near your destination. This allows you to arrive looking fresh, not like a Tour de France participant.
MoDe:Flex, for avid cyclists
This eBike was designed with cycling enthusiast in mind. Why would someone who already owns a bike need this? Well, owners can easily switch the wheels for mountain or city riding, and it also folds easily for transporting in a car (or storing in an apartment!), helpful for traveling with the bike. And the built-in nav system, along with car sensors, certainly make the bike safe.
Why an e-bike?
For those of us who enjoy cycling, the idea of a battery assist seems superfluous. But the e-bike lets you ride without sweating, so commuters can wear office clothes while they ride. The bike can also go up to 25 miles per hour, faster than you can pedal on your own.