January 29, 2018 / 4:51 PM / in a year

Ford's Chariot bus service to launch in London

Then-Ford president and CEO Mark Fields speaks near the logo of shuttle van startup Chariot, during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., Jan. 9, 2017. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - London approved on Monday Ford’s (F.N) plans to operate its Chariot minibus services as the automaker expands its mobility service designed to tap into growing demand in cities among those wishing to make trips rather than buy cars.

Chariot will be able to operate its pre-bookable only services in Britain’s capital city for a year on three routes and nine months on a fourth route on a trial basis.

Ford is trying to diversify into other modes of transportation from vehicles sold to consumers as new competitors from Alphabet’s Google (GOOGL.O) to Uber shake up the traditional automotive industry.

Major carmakers are experimenting with mobility services, partnering with existing tech apps or developing their own offerings such as car clubs as they seek to appeal to young urbanites who have increasingly shunned vehicle ownership.

“This service has the potential to provide useful transport links in the areas they will serve, largely outside central London, and we will carefully monitor this trial,” said a spokesman at regulator Transport for London (TfL).

The U.S. carmaker already operates its bus service in U.S. cities such as San Francisco and Seattle, allowing passengers to book seats for journeys generally between transport hubs and to and from park and ride facilities for the last mile of a trip.

The firm’s proposed routes in London include areas south of the River Thames which are not close to underground stations including near the Battersea Power Station redevelopment, according to TfL’s website.

Ford welcomed TfL’s approval and said it would provide further details of the service soon.

“Chariot’s commuter ride-share service will complement the existing public transport system by offering in-app ride booking for first- and last-mile commuting solutions, and the potential to reach underserved areas,” the firm said in a statement.

Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Alison Williams

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