The Ford Motor Company is investing a whopping USD 1 billion over the next 5 years on American tech startup Argo AI – combining Ford’s expertise on autonomous vehicles with Argo AI’s robotics and artificial intelligence software; to spearhead the development of autonomous vehicles.
Argo AI was founded by CEO, Bryan Salesky, and COO, Peter Rander, former leaders on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber respectively. Both are also alumni of the Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center.
The collaboration will see the current team developing Ford’s virtual driver system – the machine-learning software that acts as the brain of autonomous vehicles – combined with the robotics talent and expertise of Argo AI. This innovative partnership will work to deliver the virtual driver system for Ford’s SAE level 4 self-driving vehicles.
Ford will continue development of its purpose-built autonomous vehicle hardware platform, as well as on systems integration, manufacturing, exterior and interior design, and regulatory policy management. Argo AI will join forces with Ford’s autonomous vehicle software development effort to strengthen the commercialization of self-driving vehicles.
The software developed through the partnership could potentially be relicensed to other companies and sectors looking for autonomous capability.
Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development comments, “Working together with Argo AI gives Ford a distinct competitive advantage at the intersection of the automotive and technology industries. This open collaboration is unlike any other partnership – allowing us to benefit from combining the speed of a startup with Ford’s strengths in scaling technology, systems integration, and vehicle design.”
Argo AI will also work hand in hand with Ford’s Smart Mobility (LLC) division, which will lead the commercialization strategy for Ford’s self-driving vehicles. This includes choices for using autonomous vehicles to move goods and people, such as ride sharing, ride-hailing or package delivery fleets.
The investment will see as Ford the majority stakeholder in Argo AI. Importantly, Argo AI has been structured to operate with substantial independence. Argo AI’s board will have five members: Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president and chief technical officer; John Casesa, Ford group vice president, Global Strategy; Salesky; Rander; and an independent director.
Separately, Forbes reports, a key reason Ford has chosen to invest heavily in Argo AI, is to attract and retain talent in the competition between Silicon Valley and traditional automakers. As Ford Chief Executive Mark Fields said, “There’s a war for talent out there.” Salesky added, engineers from both Ford and Argo AI teams will be rewarded equally.
By the end of this year, Argo AI expects to have more than 200 team members, based in the company’s Pittsburgh headquarters and at major sites in South Eastern Michigan and California. Argo AI’s initial focus will be to support Ford’s autonomous vehicle development and production.