Ford buys Durham-based TransLoc

FILE PHOTO: Jim Hackett, President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, speaks at the Ford press preview at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., January 14, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid/File Photo

DETROIT (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co on Thursday said it will buy transportation software companies Autonomic Technologies Inc and TransLoc Inc for undisclosed sums as part of a strategy to expand ride services and transport businesses.

Ford said Sunny Madra, the chief executive of Autonomic, will join Ford to run a new unit called “Ford X” to develop new transport services businesses. Palo Alto, California-based Autonomic has about 70 employees.

Durham, North Carolina-based TransLoc provides software to help cities schedule and manage transit services.

Ford said it plans to expand its Chariot van service this year to more cities, and shift Chariot’s focus to collaborating with businesses to provide rides to employees.

Ford last year bought an undisclosed stake in Autonomic. Ford Chief Executive Jim Hackett this month outlined plans to use Autonomic to develop a Transportation Mobility Cloud service that would serve as an industry standard for connecting vehicles and public transit.

Neil Schloss, chief financial officer for Ford’s Smart Mobility operations, said the automaker could make more acquisitions as it tests different ways to generate revenue from transportation services and vehicles connected to the internet.

Ford, for example, plans to expand a test of a service providing non-emergency medical transport, such as transferring patients from a hospital to a nursing home. Ford is working with a hospital in the Detroit area, and now plans to expand the effort, Schloss said.

“We do all the fleet management, we have the drivers and we provide the service,” Schloss said.

Ford on Wednesday reported a loss of $299 million on investments in mobility services, and forecast higher spending this year. Still, investments in transportation services are small compared to overall spending.

Ford shares are down 3.5 percent for the year to date, and slumped earlier this month after company officials warned that 2018 results would decline from 2017 levels because of higher commodity costs and other factors.

Ford on Wednesday reported lower-than-expected profits for the fourth quarter of 2017, and analysts expressed frustration that Hackett did not offer more specific details on how the company intends to rebuild profits in its core automotive business.