Monday 1st June 2015
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Car sharing or car pooling as it is otherwise known is a well known concept in the U.S but not so familiar here.  But that could change soon thanks to Ford's 'GoDrive' scheme, a car sharing service which they are launching in London.  There are car sharing schemes out there already, such as ZipCar and BMW DriveNow but Ford claim to cheaper and easier to use.

People can book and access cars using their smartphones and can pay for one way trips on a minute basis, including parking, insurance and fuel.  At present only iPhones can use the app but Ford are working on the iOS app before it ports across to Android and they hope to achieve that soon.  They are also working on an online web portal so that the app can be accessed from any web browser.

The fee is 17p a minute just over £10 which will include the congestion charge as well. At present the scheme is limited with 50 cars available across 20 locations but Ford aim to have 1,000 cars available.  Zipcar charge £6 an hour but charges can vary depending on the car you use and other costs may be payable.  BMW DriveNow charge 39p per minute and the congestion charge.

The GoDrive cars are can be reserved and accessed using a registered app to unlock and drive the car away. The car automatically unlocks once you near it. Once inside the car there is a cradle which will hold your phone and you can keep a live track of the charges as they display on your phone.  The first five minutes are free so you can get to know the car and settle in. Ford have designated bays programmed into the sat nav so you can find your location and the route will pop up.   In time Ford will set it up so you can enter your location in the app and it will automatically be uploaded to the sat nav.  Ford are right in saying that they are more flexible since you  don’t have to go back to where you set off from like Zipcar.  The cars are safely stored in car parks and the app will give you photos and other useful pointers to find the bay you are looking for.  Best of all is that parking is guaranteed!

The timing of this launch is quite critical as Ford’s announcement has come at the same time that London’s Black Cab drivers are organising a protest.  Perhaps they see an opportunity to capitalise on our capital!  Sorry terrible pun!   Ford are inviting a large number of their members to register for free for this service.  Half of the cars will be zero-emission Ford Focus electrics which would definitely get the seal of approval from local authority environmental zealots.  But you can choose a petrol Fiesta if you prefer and you don’t have to re-plug or re-fuel the car of your choice.

Ken Washington, Vice President of Ford Research & Advanced Engineering says: "As cities become more and more congested, people are becoming increasingly open to new means of mobility, and car sharing is proving to be an appealing model,"

Ford think that car sharing in the UK will grow by 23% over the next ten years and they believe that they can provide the most affordable and flexible service. Their cars will be available at short notice and can be used for one way or two way journeys.

This might be the best option for those who commute to work on public transport and only need a car for a few days a month, such as doing the weekly shop.  In which case it would work out cheaper than all the costs involved in owning and maintaining a car.  Some people are saying that these cars could become the car equivalent of the ‘Boris bikes’.  The scheme is limited at the moment to central London but Ford are containing the scheme so they can receive and analyse user feedback to improve the scheme before scaling it up.  In the scheme could use more than two types of cars and widen its scope within and outside London.   Do you think Ford are on the right track?