For city commuters, a handy new gadget, which has been invented by a Ford worker, could help to speed up their day.
You’ve driven to your destination, parked up, but still have a short distance to travel — and what’s more, you’ve got a heavy load to transport with you.
What to do?
Here’s where a new Ford prototype could help you out in the future.
It’s an electric, four-wheeled mini-vehicle called the Carr-E and fits snugly into the boot, and it is designed to either carry people, or trail behind them carrying objects such as shopping bags or golf clubs.
The Carr-E is the brainchild of Kilian Vas, a Ford systems engineer based in Cologne, Germany — and was one of several hundred ideas put forward by the motor company’s employees as part of its Last Mile Global Mobility Challenge.
Kilian wanted to develop an “electric pedestrian assistant device” for urban commuters that will help to make transportation better in areas where vehicles are not permitted or practical — and his idea certainly captured the attention of the world’s media, which billed his invention as “the UFO you can commute on”.
The Carr-E can carry loads of up to 120kg, or 265 pounds — nearly 19 stone. It has a top speed of a nifty 18km/h (11mph), nearly four times the average walking speed, and the device can travel for 22km (14 miles) on one charge.
Commuters can travel on them or place objects upon them — users prompt the device to follow close behind them using a paired electric transmitter.
It is aimed at busy workers who might park a short distance from their final destination and are in a hurry.
“The inspiration of the Carr-E was really to offer a flexible way of transportation,” said Kilian.
“I really wanted to create a device that is more than just a hoverboard or just a ride-on device, but also a device that can carry your stuff and fits neatly into the trunk of your car.”
The invention is designed to fit neatly into the boot space usually occupied by a car’s spare wheel.
“It can also easily be taken onto public transport as well as being permanently stored in a vehicle.
One target market would be city dwellers who struggle to carry groceries home or loads of clothes to the launderette.
Ultrasonic sensors fitted on the front of the Carr-E allow it to avoid other obstacles in its path.
There are also functioning lights in the front and back that allow others to see people riding the device during the night, and it even has a built-in GPS.
“We really need to reinvent the wheel, to find new approaches to mobility,” added Kilian.
‘When developing the Carr-E, I was inspired by Ford’s expansion into both an auto and a mobility company, but I’m also aware of how rapidly cities are growing and how getting around urban areas will become progressively more complicated.
“I really wanted to create a device that makes commuting easier and more fun.”
There were a total of 633 proposals for personal mobility solutions submitted by Ford employees from around the world as part of the company’s Last Mile Global Mobility Challenge targeting urban area solutions.
The competition challenged employees to develop devices to make transportation better in areas where vehicles are not allowed or their presence is impractical.
Kilian’s Carr-E has been short-listed along with the pick of the best other ideas put forward, such as TriCiti — a folding electric tricycle that can be easily adapted into a shopping cart, stack trolley or golf buggy — and the eChair concept — an electric wheelchair that can be autonomously loaded into a vehicle.
Kilian collaborated with his colleague Daniel Hari and his manager Dr Uwe Wagner, and worked with designers from Ford of Europe and prototyping specialists from RWTH Aachen University to create the Carr-E.
The eChair, developed by Gunther Cuypers, Robin Celis and David Longin — all engineers at Ford’s Lommel Proving Grounds, Belgium — is a lightweight electric wheelchair with a self-loading solution, designed to offer greater independence to people with reduced mobility.
“Innovation and disruption is as much at the heart of how our engineers think now, as it was when Henry Ford first set about transforming transportation,” said Walter Pijls, supervisor, Innovation Management for Mobility, Ford of Europe.
“Pedestrian assistant devices can help people to cover the final kilometres of their journey quickly and easily, and to transport heavy objects they might otherwise have to carry.”
The increase in innovation at Ford is part of a conscious global decision by the company to become hi-tech and inventive, as it plans for a future of electric autonomous vehicles.
In 2016, Ford submitted the most patent applications in its history — a staggering 8,000.
Ford bosses worldwide have hailed a “mobility revolution” and a need for the company to address key areas such as congestion, emissions, and road safety.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved