Ford is shutting down Chariot, the shuttle startup that it purchased just two years ago that was supposed to be a part of the automaker’s fresh effort to move beyond the traditional business of buying and selling cars.
Chariot will end service on commuter routes in the U.K. on January 25, according to a company update Thursday. Other commuter routes in New York and San Francisco will cease by February 1. The dynamic shuttle service also had an enterprise business, which were routes with corporate and transit companies. Those enterprise routes in Austin, Chicago, Denver, Detroit and Seattle, will begin winding down by early March.
Chariot wouldn’t provide many details about why the service was shutting down except to allude to failing ridership numbers.
“In today’s mobility landscape, the wants and needs of customers and cities are changing rapidly,” the company wrote in a post on their website. The company went on to thank its customers for their support over the past five years.
Reports of sluggish demand and company morale had been trickling out for months now. A post in August by Streetsblog noted that Chariot’s shuttles in New York were empty most of the time, according to data provided by the company and evaluated by transit analyst Eric Goldwyn. That analysis found that Chariot’s fleet of 25 or so vans was serving around 1,000 riders total, or about nine riders per vehicle per day.
In February, Ali Vahabzadeh, the CEO and co-founder of ride-sharing startup Chariot left the company. He was replaced in the interim by Dan Grossman, who leads Microtransit for Ford Smart Mobility, while the company looked for a permanent person to lead Chariot.
Chariot has 625 total employees, including drivers; about 385 of those are in the Bay Area. Some Chariot employees will be offered opportunities in Ford Mobility, a company spokesperson said.
Chariot launched at Y Combinator and had only raised around $3 million before Ford acquired it, reportedly for $65 million plus earn-outs. It bases its service around a fleet of transit vans whose routes are aimed at commuters, and where routes are offered based on a “crowdsourced” vote.
Chariot was part of a slew of acquisitions and investments made by Ford since the automaker announced a broad transportation and mobility plan in 2015. That strategy, which has evolved over time, involves increasing connectivity (and the services that come with that feature) in its cars, developing autonomous vehicle technology, using big data collected from sensors in cars to learn more about how people travel and launching Ford Smart Mobility, a private subsidiary tasked with investing in and building out transportation services, including car sharing and ride hailing.