A lawyer, a nationally ranked skier, a designer who launched his career as a clay modeler, and an avid mountain biker; the minds behind Ford Motor Company’s multimodal journey experiments are proof that disparate interests and experiences can merge to create dynamic, revolutionary results.
Bill Coughlin, Bruce Williams, Bruce Southey, and Tom Thompson are the minds behind the electric bicycles unveiled by Ford earlier this year when the automaker announced it is working to change the way the world moves, once again. By introducing its Ford Smart Mobility plan, Ford unveiled its blueprint to take the world to a new level of connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data.
As Ford moves forward with its plan, eBikes continue to capture the imagination with their innovative designs and integration with Ford vehicles.
Coughlin, Williams, Thompson and Southey led development of the MoDe:Me, MoDe:Pro and MoDe:Flex eBikes with the help of a cadre of talented people. The bikes offer a new solution to the increasingly difficult urban commute, with battery-powered motors, the ability to fold or reconfigure for easy storage, and seamless connection with a rider’s smartphone thanks to MoDe:Link – an app that provides weather, congestion and traffic information among other features.
Coughlin, president and CEO, Ford Global Technologies, joined Ford 15 years ago. His career began with a stint as an electrical engineer. He went on to earn a law degree and practiced patent law for nearly 20 years. Coughlin served as chief intellectual property lawyer for DaimlerChrysler before joining Ford.
Coughlin created the challenge that resulted in development of the eBikes, and he has served as champion of the project. Coughlin lives and leads by two guiding principles:
“Exceed expectations,” he said. “The second is to bring out the best in everyone around you. If you follow these rules you can make a difference in the lives of your colleagues and, ultimately, the company and industry.”
Williams, Ford senior creative designer, was a nationally ranked skier who joined the company shortly after graduating from University of Vermont, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering. But vehicle design was his dream, so Williams moved to Detroit and worked at Ford while earning a second degree in car design from Center for Creative Studies. Williams has worked on Ford F-series, including Raptor and Super Duty.
Southey, Ford innovation designer, began his career at a luxury automaker building clay models. Admittedly not a bike enthusiast, Southey focused on designing a bike for both seasoned and novice urban commuters. He created the no-sweat mode feature for MoDe:Link, an app developed to work with Apple Watch that activates the bike’s electronic pedal assist. The electric motor switches on when the watch app notices the rider’s heart rate has reached a certain level, helping ensure the commuter arrives at the final destination fresh and sweat-free.
Thompson began his career designing parts for missiles and rockets at British Aerospace Rocketry Division before joining Ford in 2001, where he is now engineering manager for powertrain projects. He is noted for his work developing Ford EcoBoost® engines and Ford Fiesta.
An avid mountain biker, Thompson has years of experience repairing, designing and building bikes he could race down mountains. For Ford, he envisioned an electric-powered bike that could fold and store in a Ford Transit Connect for use by firms delivering goods and services. The result: MoDe:Pro.
“It’s a wonderful innovation project that we see huge potential for in major cities in which congestion is an obstacle, but where there is a demand for quicker deliveries,” said Thompson, who is already working on an improved second-generation version.