Chariot, the private minibus service owned by Ford, will close on February 1, the company announced yesterday (January 10). "In today's mobility landscape, the wishes and needs of customers and cities are changing rapidly," Chariot CEO Dan Grossman wrote on the company's blog. "We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause to Chariot passengers and our business customers."
Chariot was one of the best-known startups among a series of companies that aim to modernize the bus. Instead of offering large buses, Chariot invested in 14-seat transport vans and allowed passengers to book trips through a smartphone application, usually for less than $ 5. It was launched in San Francisco in 2014 with the goal of be an affordable travel option in a city with little public transit and abysmal road congestion.
Ford bought Chariot for a total of $ 65 million in 2016 as part of its own drive towards "mobility," a general term used to talk about the future of transportation. As Americans cooled with personal ownership of automobiles, Ford was not the only automaker looking for new opportunities. General Motors launched Maven, a network for car owners to rent their vehicles. Daimler invested in Turo, a company based in San Francisco for the rental of personal vehicles. Ford also partnered with the shared bike operator Motivate (which was later purchased by the Lyft company) to mark the local program of shared bicycles in San Francisco.
The idea behind most of these investments was that in the future we would need fewer cars on the road. That was also the thesis of the shared-travel products that both Uber and Lyft introduced several years ago. But the benefits of the private minibus are still unclear. Some transportation experts are concerned that, instead of reducing congestion in cities like San Francisco, shared-travel services have aggravated it and are driving users away from public transportation systems. Rider reviews of the mini-bus model are also mixed Chariot struggled to get enough runners, his spokesman told Wired.
Was it Chariot, or was it us? It is an open question if people want to share their trip with strangers, even at a low price. The new trend in mobility is the electric bicycle and the scooters, a form of transport that does not require invasions of personal space. In November, Ford spent $ 100 million to buy the Spin scooter company. Chariot will not mourn for long.