Fort Motor Co. (F) - Get Report CEO Jim Hackett appeared at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Tuesday, Jan. 9, to detail his company's plan to "become the world's most trusted mobility company."
In some ways, Ford's CES keynote was light on details. But it did show the company is taking a big-picture approach to technologies such as autonomous driving and ride-sharing, as well as how vehicles interact with each other and their surroundings.
Updated from 12:00 p.m. with additional analysis.
Hackett's thorough proposal is the latest in a turnaround bid that's earned him more than a few critics since he took the helm at Ford in May, when it kicked off a $3 billion cost-cutting plan that included a major workforce reduction to address the company's sagging profits and struggling stock price. Over the last 12 months, Ford's stock price is up just 3.7%, although it's already up 4.9% so far this year. On Tuesday, shares dipped 0.3% to $13.11.
It's certainly not easy to lead a company through such a major cost-cutting effort, but Hackett and the leadership team at Ford suggested investors would see the fruits of their labor in 2018 earnings. Could this be the first step in Ford's next phase?
If so, it seems the company is adopting a decidedly tech-driven strategy.
First among Ford's new initiatives is a bold play in autonomous vehicles geared toward turning a profit from the innovation. The company will launch this year a "transportation-as-a-service" platform to make connecting to and working with partner companies looking to rent autonomous cars easier.
As part of the platform, Ford will offer up its fleet of self-driving cars to companies to use to serve their own customers. Ford said it also will expand its fleet of Argo AI self-driving test vehicles to a new city, which will serve as the first market for the new autonomous vehicle business.
It's worth noting that Ford is far from alone in pursuing some of the initiatives Hackett and other execs outlined during the keynote. For example, Tesla (TSLA) - Get Report has talked about launching a ride-sharing service featuring autonomous Tesla cars, and Alphabet's (GOOGL) - Get Report Sidewalks Labs unit is also trying to work with cities on using new transportation and communications technologies to rethink urban planning. But among the traditional auto giants, Ford is thinking outside the box more than most of its peers.
Ford also announced a partnership with delivery service Postmates to explore how self-driving technology can make deliveries more efficient. It's also a means of connecting more consumers with small businesses in the 26 states Postmates serves.
Ford will also develop an open, cloud-based platform with self-driving car startup Autonomic in order to facilitate more efficient transit in cities. The platform will manage the flow of information and base processes including payment methods and identification for the cities involved.
Hackett also detailed Ford's C-V2X technology, which uses advanced wireless tech to allows vehicles to communicate directly with other vehicles, with pedestrian devices and with roadway infrastructure such as traffic signs or construction areas.
Here it's noteworthy that Qualcomm (QCOM) - Get Report plans to have chipsets supporting the platform in the second half of 2018, and that the companies claim vehicles supporting it could arrive in the "near-future." A lot of firms are working on V2X solutions, but Ford and Qualcomm seem closer than a lot of them to having a commercial solution.
Additional reporting by Eric Jhonsa.
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