As car companies move into an age where megacities, traffic and long commutes are the norm, it is clear they are not only just thinking about cars, but how to move people in the most efficient manner.
Ford has been pushing the idea that the 113-year-old manufacturer is not just a car company but also a mobility company, and has recently announced investments in bike sharing, shuttle service and even unveiled an e-bike. Now, one Ford engineer is showing his solution to help people handle city life – a four-wheeled scooter-type device called Carr-E.
Ford calls it an electric pedestrian assistant. It was created by Kilian Vas, a Ford systems engineer, who was thinking about that last mile – the last bit of a trip that can't be done on a highway or via transit.
"I think it is a good piece to get in this new mobility business," says Vas in an interview. "This could really be a link between the given modes of transportation."
Vas often travels with equipment he needs to carry and one day had his ah ha moment.
"One day i looked in the trunk of my mustang and saw this (space) with just a tire in it and thought this could be a nice storage space for a mobility device," he says. "To really use it on a daily basis, getting it easily out of the car, putting my luggage on it and letting it do all the work."
Vas rode the device out on stage to show it off during the Further with Ford trend conference Monday.
Ford issued a challenge for its employees to find creative solutions and this was one of the inventions. The others included a system that captures dripping condensation from the air conditioning unit, filters it and pumps it into the car for drinking. The third allows a passenger to control the cars heating and stereo from a smartphone app, which would be used in ride-hailing services, especially if there is a language barrier.
The idea with Carr-E is that if you can't park right next to where you need to be, you can either stand on the device and ride it or you can put objects you don't want to carry on it and let it do the heavy lifting.
It can also be used if there is too much congestion. Users can park farther away and ride this device, zooming past traffic. It fits perfectly in the trunk, where the spare wheel goes.
Carr-E can carry 118 kilograms, has a range of 22 kilometres, a top speed of 18 km/h, and takes 35 minutes to charge. And it comes with a Ford Fusion grille, just like its NASCAR cars.
When carrying items, you can either drive it or set it to 'tether' mode, and it then essentially follows a signal from your smartphone.
Audi revealed a similar scooter in April at the Beijing International Automobile Exhibition, an electric longboard fits into a compartment underneath the rear bumper of a specially modified Q3, also designed to accomplish that last mile and skirt traffic. Vas says he had the idea before Audi unveiled its prototyp.
Vas was quick to point out during the demonstration that the Carr-E is only the first prototype. Vas says he and his team built the device in three months for this innovation challenge, but it is too early to tell if it is something Ford will continue to develop.
"We haven't had a lot of time to do reviews or customer clinics to see if this is a product we can continue to build," he says. "We need more time to see if we can make it happen."