By Betty Yu

(KPIX 5) — When Ford’s 2017 Super Bowl commercial airs before kickoff this Sunday, you won’t see its classic standbys – a splashy new truck or car.

This year, the ad is about the automaker’s vision for the future – a world in which people will get around easier and faster using Ford’s new technologies and services. That means ride sharing, electric cars, bike sharing, and self-driving cars.

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The 90-second spot features San Francisco-based service Chariot. In it, a rider hails the Ford-branded commuter van.

“Ford is thinking about the bigger picture and thinking down the future,” said Chariot co-founder and CEO Ali Vahabzadeh.

Chariot is a ride-hailing app and service that uses crowdsourced routes. Ford bought the two-year-old startup in September.

“Ford is an American icon, a global icon really, and they’ve already in these four short months been able to provide us with a tremendous amount of resources,” said Vahabzadeh.

What began as a 12-person startup has grown to 40 in the office. By the end of the year, Chariot plans to expand to eight cities and double its fleet to more than 250 Chariots in San Francisco alone.

Ford may be headquarted in Detroit, but it’s found a home in Silicon Valley.

“Tech enables us to differentiate our product,” said Raj Rao, CEO of Ford Smart Mobility. “So we look at tech as a way to enhance the ownership experience or the riding experience.”

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Ford’s research and innovation center in Palo Alto is dedicated to all things tech.

The division has grown so much in the past year, Ford is expanding to two buildings across the street. It plans to move in during the fall.

The century-old company isn’t the only one snapping up Silicon Valley startups. General Motors recently bought San Francisco-based Cruise Automation, which makes self-driving car software.

“This makes sense for established companies especially ones from outside Silicon Valley that want to have a toehold here,” said Russell Hancock, CEO and President of Joint Venture Silicon Valley. “They’re finding that in the 21st century you have to be using software, you have to be social, mobile, local, you have to be internet-savvy.”

In Ford’s case, it’s all about trying to go farther, faster.

“I think one of the reasons they acquired us was – here was this scrappy startup with very limited funding and we had to figure out how to source vehicles, insurance,” added Vahabzadeh. “We were able to do that in less than two years and so we provide Ford a head start.”


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