April 18, 2018 / 4:09 AM / 4 months ago

Ford expands U.S. medical ride business built around its vans

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N) said on Wednesday that it was expanding a medical transport service called GoRide in Southeast Michigan, one of several efforts by the U.S. automaker to build new ride service businesses around its Transit commercial van.

The Ford logo is pictured on the company's stand during the 88th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Under a multi-year agreement with Michigan healthcare system Beaumont Health, Ford will use Transit vans to transport patients to medical appointments, or from hospitals to home or rehabilitation centers.

Ford already has 15 vans serving Beaumont facilities as part of a previously announced test project and plans to deploy 60 vans by the end of the year, the company said.

Van drivers will not be direct Ford employees, said Minyang Jiang, head of the GoRide business.

Like other legacy automakers, Ford has struggled to lift its shares because investors worry that ride services companies such as Uber Technologies Inc and China’s Didi Chuxing, or technology companies such as Alphabet Inc, (GOOGL.O) are better positioned to capture revenue from providing transportation as a service, displacing vehicle ownership.

Uber last year launched a service called Uber Health, also aimed at serving healthcare providers and patients who need rides to medical appointments but who do not need a costly ambulance ride.

Ford has outlined to investors plans to create and operate more services that tie together vehicles that Ford builds, particularly the Transit van, fleet management and route guidance technology the company is developing, and data generated by the vehicles.

Its ride service efforts, including the Chariot commuter van service, are still in early stages.

Ford plans to expand the GoRide medical transport service to other cities and healthcare companies over the next several years, Marion Harris, vice president of Ford’s Mobility Business group, told Reuters.

“You will see further announcements,” he said.

Ford is still deciding whether GoRide will be the brand solely for non-emergency medical transport, or become a brand used more broadly for Ford’s ride services, Harris said.

Reporting By Joe White, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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