The Uber taxi service is set to face serious competition with the impending launch of Ford’s new GoRide project.
It will allow users to summon, via an app, a shuttle van that, according to Ford, will be more spacious and comfortable than a conventional cab but cheaper, because the cost will be shared by up to eight passengers, some going to different destinations.
Ford, which is running a pilot scheme in America, says GoRide will arrive in Britain by the end of the year.
“You’re talking about the end of human driving, the end of private ownership, the end of the internal combustion engine and the end of car dealerships”
Motor executives have been panicked by the rise of services such as Uber, which offer an alternative to owning a car. The proportion of young Britons learning to drive fell from 36% to 29% in the five years to 2014, and is expected to drop further with the advent of driverless cars.
“You’re talking about the end of human driving, the end of private ownership, the end of the internal combustion engine and the end of car dealerships,” said Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley.
Ford said it was trying to pre-empt the expected arrival of similar services from Apple and Google.
The pilot service is being run in Dearborn, Michigan, where the company’s world headquarters is based and where 21 Ford Transit minivans carry up to 300 staff a day to 129 destinations.
Users tap their destination into an app, which calculates the journey time. If the passenger accepts, Ford works out which of its fleet can get them there most efficiently without making the passengers already on board the bus late, then instructs the driver.
Driverless vehicles could be used in future.