PT contributor Scot Bathgate forwarded us this video from Ford from a few months ago that takes the “kids on bikes witnessing the otherworldly” trope last seen in the Netflix series Stranger Things, and goes one step beyond.
And although it’s odd for a car manufacturer, one so long steeped in motordom mythology, not only embrace the role of the bicycle in a liveable community, with fleeting glimpses of mass transit and pedestrian activity (and always a glowing, flying orb), it’s all about Ford telling us that the company really understands the importance of mobility mix — the new marketing mix.
The video’s YouTube description includes a link to the Ford Innovation marketing campaign, and it’s worth understanding what they’re ultimately selling us.
The company extolls its commitment — not to anything related to active transportation in communities, but to the kinds of truly transformative technologies our communities apparently really need: electric vehicles (definitely), pothole mitigation technology (sure), driver-assist features like ‘Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert’ (hm?) and pedestrian detection (ok, now hold up a sec).
Yes, now we know this all too well — some of the things humans used to do can now be done by your vehicle. And now the car companies are pushing this evolutionary step forward with slick, persuasive, “the future is now” marketing.
However, as Ford notes in a large footnote-type link, the objects pictured in the future may move less dynamically, less predictably, or let’s just say “less accurate-like”, than the ads may infer:
Driver-assist features are supplemental and do not replace the driver’s attention, judgment and need to control the vehicle. … While Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection may be especially helpful in unexpected situations, and can assist to detect walking pedestrians, it does not replace the driver and has limitations, including nighttime, low and harsh lighting conditions, vehicles moving in a different direction and certain weather conditions.
Harkening back to the early days of pharmaceutical warnings, how long before the disclaimers begin to bloat and swallow up the ads?
The video also previews Ford’s Chariot public shuttle service, an acquisition Scot alerted us to a few years ago. Though this type of smaller-scale public transit is far less sexy than crowd-sourced, venture-backed private schemes like Uber and Lyft, it resembles the kind of “share taxi” more common elsewhere in the world. Something like Chariot could actually be very useful in many large North American cities suffering from congestion and chronic issues with taxi licensing, regulation or capacity. (Know of any?)
Finally, what about that bike thing? Is Ford getting into the bicycle infrastructure business? Lobbying state and federal governments for mobility equity? About to wade into 3P projects, and stamp their logo on major active transportation investments?
No. But they made an app called InfoCycle, and are working on taking our cycling trip data and doing something great with it. Because according to Ford, it’s not people on bike or foot who are suffering; it’s the infrastructure — struggling to keep up.
Thus, part of “changing the way we move” is using data to teach us how to share the road. Or something.
To Ford, it appears to be our common future. And that image of that future?
They saved it for the final few seconds of the video. Enjoy.