There’s a shift underway in the automobile market and it’s entirely separate from the shift consumers made toward crossovers, SUVs and trucks in the month of March thanks to low fuel prices.
This other shift has the potential to upend the entire industry. That’s why CEOs like Ford’s (F) Mark Fields are looking for every possible way to expand their companies’ reach into new markets and new technologies.
The rise of companies like Uber, Lyft and car-sharing services is forcing Ford and other automakers to innovate and think beyond being traditional “car companies.”
“We’re thinking of ourselves as a mobility company as well as an auto company,” Ford CEO Mark Fields told Yahoo Finance’s Bianna Golodryga at the New York International Auto Show. “We’re seeing the trends… so we have launched what we call Ford Smart Mobility, which is around taking us to the next level using innovation around mobility, around connected cars, around autonomous vehicles.”
One of the centerpieces of the program is a ride-sharing service called the Dynamic Social Shuttle. Ford is testing a smartphone app that would allow users to order shuttle rides around their cities.
The program is one of 25 experiments the company is running around the world, trying to innovate itself into relevance in the rapidly evolving world of transportation beyond owning a car.
Ford finds itself in the position of needing to create products to compete with the disrupters like Ubers and Lyfts, which of course means creating products that mean less reliance on car ownership – an odd position for one of the “Big Three” American automakers to be sure.
Among the other experiments underway at Ford: a car-swapping program in the United States, where people would be able to swap their cars on the weekends. In other parts of the world, the company is testing a program that helps drivers find open parking spaces.
So if Ford succeeds in hedging its bets, commuters could be ordering a ride and a parking space from Ford in the not-too-distant future.
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