Ford used Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to unveil two new e-bike concepts that help define its vision for a connected transport future where cars form just one part of a multi-mode travel eco-system.
The MoDe:Me and MoDe:Pro are the result of a competition run amongst the company's employees with the aim of finding e-bike designs that could make a connected journey more efficient, safer, healthier and less stressful.
Over 100 submissions to the Handle on Mobility competition were received, with the MoDe:Me and MoDe:Pro bikes selected as the best concepts and subsequently developed as prototypes. The bikes both feature a 200 W motor with a 9 Ah battery. Electric pedal assist allows riders to reach speeds of up to 25 km/h (15.5 mph).
The MoDe:Me e-bike is designed with urban commuters in mind and can be folded up to take on public transport, whilst the MoDe:Pro is designed for commercial use, such as by couriers, and can be stowed in Ford's commercial vehicles. So far so run-of-the-mill, but these bikes have a few compelling tech features up their sleeve.
The pedal-assist can be adjusted based on heart-rate or to work harder when the rider nears their destination so that they arrive fresh. There are indicators mounted at each end of the handlebars, front and rear lights that can be set to different flashing modes and haptic alerts given via the grips. The underside of the MoDe:Me is also designed as a carry handle for easy transportation.
An accompanying iPhone 6 compatible app has been created for use with the bikes. MoDe:Link can be used to give directions and can provide bike-friendly routes. It's possible to integrate journey planning with other modes of transport, for routes to be updated on the fly when there are delays on the modes of transport riders have planned to take and for factors such as cost, time and weather to be taken into account.
The MoDe:Link app can also trigger turning signals automatically and provide right or left haptic alerts via the handlebars to notify riders when it is time to turn without them having to take their eyes off the road. Riders can be notified of hazards detected by the rear-facing ultrasonic sensor on the bikes and, according to Ford, the app will eventually be able to communicate with other nearby vehicles. When a rider's bike is stowed and charging in a Ford vehicle, any active journeys can automatically be continued on the vehicle's display through the app's compatibility with Ford's SYNC software.
The Handle on Mobility competition is one of a number of experiments that Ford is running as part of its Smart Mobility initiative.
Speaking to Gizmag at Mobile World Congress, Ford's vice president of research and advanced engineering Ken Washington explained that, rather than continuing to view cars as standalone products, the company is increasingly viewing them as part of a travel eco-system that uses multiple modes of transport and is informed by information made available online, such as from other road-users. This recognition reflects a broader push towards dual-mode transport that's become increasingly apparent, at least at a concept level, over the past few years.
"There are so many ways to get around a city, but what is really needed is a way to connect all of these transport options together," explains Washington in a press release. "Being able to seamlessly move between cars, buses, trains and e-bikes and react to changing traffic situations can make a big difference both for commuters and for those delivering goods, services and healthcare."
Ford is currently gathering feedback on how the bikes might be further developed.