More scooters are available in Detroit today, and they’re under a very familiar name. Ford announced that the company has acquired Spin—a San Francisco dockless electric scooter sharing company—reflecting a new direction in mobility for the automaker.
Sunny Madra, vice president of Ford X, discusses the new approach in a blog post. Madra says, “[E]arlier this year, we created Ford X, a division within Ford Smart Mobility, LLC that aims to quickly build, acquire and pilot new transportation products and services. The most successful of these projects will become part of our growing mobility offering.”
Last month, Ford announced it had launched its own scooter share, named Jelly, although as The Verge reported, Jelly is more about testing technology than it is about running a viable startup. Currently, Jelly is only available on the campus of Purdue University, where a spokesperson confirmed Ford was supporting the “academic research project.”
Spin uses the same price point as competitors Bird and Lime, but Spin works with cities before dropping scooters into the urban fabric.
Ford and Spin will launch service of 400 scooters in Detroit today. Keeping with guidelines from the city in recent weeks, 100 of those scooters will go to neighborhoods outside of Grand Boulevard.
The acquisition is the latest development in Ford’s pivot away from mass-market vehicles, led by new CEO Jim Hackett, who is repositioning the automaker as a leader in designing “streets for living.” Last year, Ford opened Greenfield Labs, a mobility think tank that’s a collaboration with global design firm IDEO, and launched the National Street Service, which works with Danish urban design firm Gehl to revision streets as public spaces.
Ford recently started building a mobility-focused campus in Detroit, first by moving a team into the Factory, and then more notably, purchasing Michigan Central Station. At the press conference for Michigan Central Station in June, company leaders talked about broader mobility terms, and creating a “Transportation Operating System.” They also discussed the development of a Transportation Mobility Cloud, “an open platform that manages information flow and transactions between different services – to help cities optimize their various modes of transit.”
Dockless electric scooters have seen a lot of success in Detroit. Last week, the city of Detroit and the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) announced that Detroit would be the home for a pilot mobility data project, which will help cities create more manageable streets and move toward more equity in mobility.