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Ford's City Insights Platform - Providing Data Driven Solutions for Urban Transit Problems

by Roger Lanctot | 10月 03, 2019

On October 2nd in front of an audience of journalists, reporters and industry analysts, Ford Mobility and the city of Ann Arbor showcased some of their ongoing activities as part of Ford’s new City Insights Platform. The key tenets of the platform include solutions to increase accessibility of transit offerings, reduce crashes, and improve the flow of traffic on the city’s streets.

Designed as a public-private partnership between Ford, the city of Ann Arbor, and the state of Michigan, the pilot-project aims to bring public and private stakeholders together to build data-driven solutions to urban mobility problems.

Ford sees three key areas where they can help provide solutions to urban planners and policy makers through their Insights platform.

First, through Parking Insights, Ford hopes to use municipal parking data to help make parking more efficient and less costly. Often it is easy to notice when a city is plagued by a lack of available parking. But Ford believes that in Ann Arbor, this can be solved by improving driver awareness of existing and available lots, garages and public spaces in real time. Ford hopes that through its data, it can help alleviate parking congestion in urban centers by increasing awareness of existing parking solutions, rather than building costly and unnecessary new garages and parking lots. 

Next, through Safety Insights, Ford is capable of mapping out which intersections have the highest crash rates, determining proximate and distal causes of each crash (i.e. drugs, alcohol, distractions), seeing which roads are “near miss” sites, and analyzing where bikers, pedestrians, and scooter-riders are at the highest risk. Ford hopes that the data collected from its vehicle fleets in the Ann Arbor area can help the local government improve safety outcomes for all types of mobility services, ultimately saving tax-payer money through the prevention of crashes and unnecessary deaths. 

Last, through Transit Insights, Ford is collecting mobility data on scooters, bikes, ride-sharing, car-sharing, shuttles and more to see which areas these micromobility solutions are in highest demand. The company hopes this data can shed light on how to best channel first-and-last-mile solutions to the city’s commuters.

The highlight of the event was the Ford Studio; an interactive 3-D map of the city of Ann Arbor that lays out Ford’s mobility data on a visually appealing live model. The Ford Studio is meant to showcase real-time data from the aforementioned areas and allows users to see current and developing problem areas, which should serve useful from a policy making standpoint.

Ford Studio--Ann Arbor, Michigan 

The key question moving forward is how Ford is expecting to monetize all of this data. Since Ford has a steady fleet of public-use and personal-use vehicles across Ann Arbor and the rest of the country, it should have no problem collecting a representative sample for testing solutions across most U.S. urban environments. But how they will utilize the data for revenue generation has yet to be announced.

Strategy Analytics believes that the data collected through City Insights could move Ford in a number of different revenue generating directions. For example, Ford could take the transit data and move toward the development of some sort of mobility as a service application, similar to moovit. Ford could also use the data to better serve urban environments with its Spin e-scooter business line. Additionally, Ford may even be able to build out its Ford GoRide non-emergency medical transportation services and find new avenues for further growth and urban integration.

Over the long run, the City Insights platform will be a valuable R&D tool for Ford and its autonomous vehicle development efforts. But from a mobility standpoint, the platform should help Ford to specifically tailor its own proprietary solutions to local problems, with the hope that their expansion into other cities will shed light on potential solutions at the broader national level. If Ford can discover national trends through these local R&D efforts, it will be well-equipped to better serve all urban residents across the United States in terms of mobility.

In the short run, Ford benefits from positive publicity for partnering with the local government to solve urban transit problems. It will also receive less scrutiny from the public on the collection of personal data since they are using it to solve real-world problems that effect our everyday lives. 

All in all, it will be interesting to see what results from Ford’s City Insights platform. With plans to begin offering the platform in other cities over the coming months, Ford is positioning itself well as a go to provider of data analytics on day-to-day urban problems.

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