Smart Design:

Ford’s Dynamic Shuttle project to address urban gridlock


In support of Ford’s global experiments to explore the future of mobility, Smart Design worked with Ford to gather extensive consumer insight to conceive and shape both the physical and technical attributes of an on-demand dynamic shuttle service at the inception phase of the project.

The vision for the Ford Dynamic Shuttle project was to bend to the needs of people, instead of the transportation systems that carry them. Instead of requiring users to follow set routes and schedules, urban commuters could request trips on-demand through a smartphone app. A purpose-built Ford Transit van dynamically routed these riders to pick up and drop off multiple passengers across a network of virtual stops.

The design of the service went beyond building an exceptional app. It required thinking through the entire ecosystem to create a dynamic service that adapts to people’s needs and makes sharing a benefit.

Heather Martin
VP, Design

“This effort is really about creating a service that makes people feel comfortable sharing space with a small number of strangers,” said Martin. “One of the important things we learned is about getting the right amount of personal space. What people feel comfortable with varies from city to city – and this has to be balanced with the impact on the cost of the service.”

Martin adds, “The ability to create a purpose-built vehicle customized for shared transportation, which is seamlessly integrated with a digital service which creates custom routes for people heading in the same direction, is something only a company like Ford can do.”

Ford worked with Smart Design’s team to envisage a compelling service experience and evaluate its viability. Research teams surveyed people in various cities around the world to understand how consumer attitudes and needs vary from region to region. In the United States and United Kingdom, this included conducting research in different-sized cities – Atlanta, New York, Edinburgh and London. They also took into account growing national economies, studying Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in Brazil, along with Chennai and Mumbai in India.

The project has focused on three key questions:

  • What is the business opportunity for a global automotive company like Ford to become a leader in new on-demand transportation services that fill the gaps between public and private transportation offerings?
  • What are the behavioral insights which enable shared transportation – and how do you frame such services to be desirable to both passengers and drivers?
  • How can Ford leverage its product heritage to create purpose-built premium shuttles that are fully integrated with the digital service elements of managing passengers and routing navigation, while creating a comfortable and desirable experience for commuters?

The project was one of more than 25 mobility experiments launched by Ford to address the world’s growing transportation needs. Please visit Ford’s website for more information about this and the other mobility experiments.

Jul 2016