Ford held an internal contest for employees to come up with innovative solutions for covering the last mile, that instance between car and store, for instance, or wherever a driver has to get out of their car and typically continue on foot because cars are no longer allowed. The finalists of the contest include a flat, rolling platform designed to live in a car’s trunk and deploy when needed to transport either people or goods for that last mile; an electric folding tricycle that doubles as a shopping cart; and a an electric wheelchair that can load itself into and out of a user’s car.
The Carr-E, the transport platform finalist has a design that looks a little like an oversized Roomba. It’s designed to be flexible with what it can transport, with a max carrying capacity of around 265 lbs, a 14 mile max range and a top speed of 11 mph. It’s also intended to be used with an electronic transmitter that a user can keep with them to prompt the Carr-E to follow them, perhaps carrying a load of groceries to their car.
The TriCiti is also designed to be both rideable and good for transporting cargo, with a folding, three-legged design that can be repurposed as a self-propelled shopping bag, or even a golf bag. It has a range of 19 miles and a top speed of 22 mph, and can work either in a user’s car or even on pubic transportation, because of its small size when folded.
Finally the eChair is an electric wheelchair concept, which is paired with a self-loading mechanism for use in a vehicle’s trunk to help make it possible for users with reduced mobility to manage their entire trip on their own.
Ford’s purpose with this contest was to help address the needs of a user base that increasingly values long-term independence, but that might not yet have the technology available to make that a reality. It’s increasingly becoming important for automakers to address this market, and many including Toyota are looking at robotics as a way to supplement in-home and last mile mobility for an aging population.