Ford is using hackers to improve your commute – and change how we think about cars

In Cologne last week, Ford locked 50 hackers into a room for 30 hours. Their goal? To revolutionise how we use transport – by turning your commute into a game.

Set up in collaboration with Cologne Game Lab, the hackathon saw the hackers work in groups, and use the benefits of gamification to optimise the way we use different modes of transport.

Two finalist teams from the Cologne hackathon will have until 11 January to finalise their concepts before they join another four finalists. After all that, a winner will be chosen from the three best projects at Mobile World Congress on 22 February. As well as the chance to see their app used by Ford, the finalists are competing for €17,500 (£12,400) in funds – including a €10,000 (£7,000) prize for the winner.smart_mobility_hackathon_ford_2

Inner-city stress

All the statistics say it: our cities are becoming overcrowded, as a journey into London at 8am makes plain. Whatever you use to help make the trip more bearable – whether it’s Citymapper, Apple Maps, the TFL website or something else – the daily commute is one of the most stressful journeys for city dwellers.

Ford’s Smart Mobility project wants to change this. “We’re conducting experiments to find out what products and services and information could improve people’s mobility experience – particularity in cities and urban areas,” says Will Farrelly, user experience innovation, Ford Smart Mobility, Ford of Europe. 

The way we travel has changed

According to Ford’s research, the way we travel is changing. “We see a great deal of change starting to happen in transport through digital services,” says Farrelly.

“We see a great deal of change starting to happen in transport”

Apps have taught us to use a variety of transport options, rather than sticking to one mode of travel. “We see from our research that, when people adopt an urban lifestyle – especially if they’re not a car owner – their mobility patterns are very multi-modal,” he says.smart_mobility_hackathon_3

“They use lots of modes of transport depending on what they’re trying to do. On a Friday night, you’re more likely to pay for a taxi, and more willing to justify the premium for that, but during the day you’re more likely to want a tube or a taxi or a Boris bike.”

However, Ford thinks we still aren’t getting the most out of our transport services. He’s looking for ways to make our journeys more efficient and less stressful. Which is where games come into it.

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