Bikes Have the Attention of the Ford Motor Company

The age-old conflict between cars and bikes finally has the attention of one of the giants. Ford's Info Cycle project mounts sensors on street bikes to map out how multi-modal city travelers move around.

July 27, 2015, 12:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


New York Cycling

The Bike Fed / Flickr

You know multi-modal alternatives are catching on when Ford steps into the ring. "More than a century after Ford itself fatally disrupted the horse carriage industry, the people at the prototypical 20th-century manufacturing company are confronting a proliferation of 21st-century alternatives to the old paradigm of one person, one car, in which simply pushing new models off assembly lines each year won't cut it."

Developed in Palo Alto, Ford's Info Cycle project uses a sensor system to gather bicycle movement data, "along with OpenXC data gathered from its cars, to track the changing way people are moving around cities." Mounted on a whole fleet of bikes, "the sensor is capable of recording a variety of data, including location, pedal speed, ambient light, temperature, altitude, and speed. The data is then available for analysis."

In addition to providing insight for Ford, the data collected could aid street design to improve safety and usability. As of right now, Ford appears to view the project as a study in the kind of disruptive innovation many 20th-century behemoths have fallen prey to.

Says Sudipto Aich, a principal research engineer for Info Cycle, "Ask anyone who rides in the city the top thing they are mindful of, it's a car [...] that in itself is potentially a huge opportunity. Now, bike companies aren't thinking about cars, and car companies aren't thinking about bikes."

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