Ford Challenges Citizens of New York and Detroit to Co-Create Mobility Solutions

The Ford Hub storefront busy with people.

Ford Motor Company, famous for the innovations that launched the automobile into the mainstream in the early years of the 20th century, was nearly two decades into the 21st and recognizing the need for innovation.

As part of a series of Ford Smart Mobility challenges, Ford focused on solving big city travel problems using open innovation with customers and entrepreneurs. First in New York and then in Detroit, the company engaged a wide range of participants to identify barriers to effective, reliable transportation and then imagine and create solutions.

A Mac laptop with Ford's community on the screen.

The Challenge

Seeking input from diverse and disparate groups of city stakeholders over a short period of time, Ford needed a way to quickly connect, engage, and generate solutions. In New York, consumers and entrepreneurs were tasked with improving transportation accessibility for all and encouraging smarter travel choices. In Detroit, Ford engaged the community at large to stimulate new ideas for transforming mobility in their city – innovations that would enable Detroit residents to get around more easily, safely, and reliably.

By listening to people and responding to what they need we can have dramatic impacts on their lives.

Bill Ford - Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company

Two Communities, Thousands of Contributions

 Mobilize New York and Go Detroit were crowd innovation communities designed to stimulate new ideas to help residents and visitors get around faster and more easily. Over the course of several months, participants were guided along an innovation path that first helped identify universal problems, then encouraged rough proposals, and finally leveraged the community to expand and improve the ideas that were contributed by community members.

The communities generated over 6,000 ideas and contributions from over 1,700 participants. In New York, Ford collaborated with promising innovators in live prototyping sessions before bringing the ideas back to the community for a vote. The winning teams shared $30,000 in prize money, and conversations are ongoing with several of the finalists about implementing their solutions, with the support of mentors from Ford and transport partners. Product and service innovation ideas ranged from an app consolidating major ride-hailing apps, to portable vehicles with mobile power sources.

Go Detroit participants offered solutions to a wide array of issues. These included improving access to employment, schools, and healthcare providers, especially in inclement weather; providing affordable transportation to grocery stores and leisure activities; and facilitating easy access to reliable information about mass transit options. Leading ideas were further explored and improved in live sessions with mentors and experts. The individuals and teams behind winning ideas shared in a pool of $60,000 and were offered on-going support after the challenge to further pursue their concepts. Successful ideas ranged from technology solutions like apps for ride sharing to shuttle services transporting Detroiters to and from work.

The open innovation campaigns were an exciting way for the brand to connect with customers, and highlighted Ford’s transformation from traditional automaker to innovative mobility provider offering services, solutions, and programs beyond their conventional business. Programs like Go Detroit and Mobilize New York support their strategic vision and market position.

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