Bike Sharing Expansion Poised to Create Valuable New Data Resource

Create: 06/20/2017 - 16:57
FordGoBike IoT data

Photo: Ford GoBike


The San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s existing 10-year operations contract with Brooklyn, NY’s Motivate is expanding in a big way, bringing its bike-sharing program to the East Bay. Originally launched in San Francisco and San Jose, the program is expanding east to include Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville. The current 470 bikes in rotation will be skyrocketing to 7,000 by the end of next year.

With Ford Motor Company taking over as the primary sponsor, the program and new bikes are being rebranded as Ford GoBike. Motivate is already busy replacing existing teal bikes with the new blue models and installing stations and bikes across the three recently included cities. The GoBike system will become operational June 28 in San Francisco and San Jose, with the new East Bay service beginning July 11.

Keeping the Wheels Turning

Motivate uses a data-driven rebalancing system to get bikes in the right places. Rebalancing is the term for repositioning bikes to ensure bicycles and docks are available where and when customers need them, which is a challenge for all transportation sharing options, especially in heavily used systems.

Motivate has pioneered analytical approaches and operational solutions to these challenges, including partnering with Cornell University to help create predictive rebalancing models. The company is also partnering with vendors to create rebalancing tricycles, a greener and more efficient way to move bikes across short distances.

Connected Bikes = Valuable Data

While at first glance Ford’s GoBike investment could be seen purely as a business move to increase brand awareness in a new market, they see the gambit as a bigger opportunity than might first meet the eye.

According to Jim Hackett, Ford’s former chairman of Smart Mobility, who is now the company’s CEO, its interest in bike sharing goes well beyond simple branding. The real interest lies in potential untapped data that could be gained from the connected capabilities of the new bike fleets.

Speaking at an investor conference in September 2016 about Ford GoBike and Chariot, the San Francisco shuttle service that Ford bought last year, Hackett explained why the company’s interest in sponsoring bike sharing in the Bay Area is unique. “What we are doing differently in San Francisco that isn’t done in New York is we put telemetry on that bike; telemetry is a form of communication,” he said. “So now the bike is pinging data to us. Listen, here is the deal—the opportunity is not bikes. That is not why Ford is in it.”

FordGoBike IoT analytics


Hackett expounded, “The opportunity is data. And the data is super valuable because it tells us these invisible paths that people are taking in this complex city in terms of how they want to get around. And there is something else cool about it, because we can take that data and we can connect it in ways that our new shuttle is going to connect to the cloud as well.”

While according to Ford officials, the new bikes do not include technology that collects real-time data (weather conditions and bike availability), the potential to collect them in the future remains. Motivate expects to have location-based services on the app by the end of the year, which will provide users with data about their mileage traveled and calories burned. Like with any app, users will still be able to turn the service off.

Smart Transportation

Ford believes that involved cities have a huge opportunity to derive tremendous value in the form of insights that come from capturing transportation data.

About Author

Melanie McMullen's picture
Melanie McMullen
Melanie is an expert technology writer who specializes in covering the IoT, cloud, mobile computing, and emerging technology markets. Melanie has held top editorial and content development positions at, Internet Business magazine, and LAN Magazine. She has written hundreds of global business technology articles and blogs and co-authored The Standard for Internet Commerce.

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