Ford’s Chariot ride-sharing service will expand to 8 cities in 2017

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Ford-owned Chariot, the on-demand commute ridesharing service it acquired through Ford Smart Mobility last September, is going to expand to eight new cities in 2017, including one outside the U.S., Ford announced at the North American International Auto Show this year in Detroit. Chariot currently operates in its home city of San Francisco, and in Austin, TX, with a pilot project launched late last year in Lake Tahoe to supplement ski resort transportation.

Chariot offers on-demand ridesharing via Ford Transit shuttles, looking to supplement public transit bus routes and local trains with commuter routes that aren’t well served by either of those existing solutions. Ford Smart Mobility, the company Ford founded to focus on mobility alternatives to vehicle ownership, acquired Chariot in September.

Ford CEO Mark Fields told me at CES that he believes his company will increasingly address the transportation needs of customers in a variety of different ways, and that Chariot is a key component of putting that strategy into practice. Chariot CEO Ali Vhabzadeh has previously told me that his company planned to expand aggressively in 2017, but now we know the specific scope of those expansion plans.

Chariot’s approach to new markets might look different compared to what it’s doing in San Francisco and Austin; Vhabzadeh explained to me previously that the company is keen to look at market needs when planning new service in a different area. Its Lake Tahoe project shows one small example of what that kind of flexibility might look like.

Ford’s long-term plans include bringing an autonomous ride-sharing business to market at scale by 2021, with the aim of serving “millions” of customers. This will most likely take place in urban centers first, where Ford will have done detailed mapping and route data gathering to prepare for launch, and Chariot is likely a big part of those plans.