In a recent interview, Ford Motor Company Executive Vice President of Marketing and Sales David McClelland called Austin a “progressive city with a rich demographic mix.” He went on to say our public transportation is effective (we may have to disagree with you there, David) and Austinites are tech savvy, which makes Austin a prime location for testing ideas.
You may be asking why a Ford marketing executive is taking enough interest to comment on the awesome-ness of our city. In the next 24 months, Ford plans to revolutionize the way consumers nationwide purchase vehicles and travel—beginning with Austin.
How Would Car-Sharing Work?
Ford plans to launch a pilot program in February that will allow multiple Austinites to share a lease for one vehicle. The company will offer 24-month leases to a group of three to six people to evenly split the cost and use of a vehicle. For example, if a group of six people wanted to share a new Ford Fusion Hybrid that normally costs $333 per month, the monthly payments would be $55.50 for each person on the lease. Each person on the lease will have a mobile app that allows them to schedule vehicle use times, handle maintenance and make payments on the vehicle.
This pilot program is part of a growing effort from automakers to keep up with the transportation sharing industry. It is meant to cater to drivers who do not necessarily need a vehicle full-time, yet still have transportation needs. This could apply to drivers who share a pickup truck for moving supplies or for UT students who are not ready to own a car of their own yet.
What Does Ford’s Car-Sharing Program Mean for Austin?
During this 24-month trial program, Austin may see a difference in traffic. We may see fewer pedestrians and cyclists, as they are the consumers Ford hopes to target. Less foot or bike traffic on the road could help to lower the striking number of pedestrian or cyclist accidents the city saw in 2015.
On the other hand, more vehicles on the road could lead to an increase in the already high number of car accidents, particularly with a car that is switching hands so often. Moreover, if one of the target demographics for this pilot is college students who are looking to afford a car, the likelihood of drinking and driving incidents may increase within the city as well.
While Ford’s pilot program sounds good in theory, research and innovation should not come at the cost of an increase in city-wide accidents. Only the next 24 months will tell if Ford’s car-sharing program negatively or positively affects Austin’s high number of car accidents.
Aaron Allison is a personal injury attorney who represents accident victims in the Austin area.