Ford Places $1B Bet in Argo AI on Autonomous Vehicles

Ford CEO Mark Fields placing the license plate on the Fusion Hybrid autonomous vehicle.

Ford Motor is investing $1 billion during the next five years in Argo AI, a startup company with robotics experience and artificial intelligence software, in a claimed attempt to advance its autonomous vehicles programs. Founded by former Google and Uber leaders, Argo AI will include roboticists and engineers from inside and outside of Ford working to develop a new software platform for Ford’s fully autonomous vehicle coming in 2021. (Ford Wants Fully Autonomous Ride-Sharing Car in 2021)

Argo AI employees – through their equity participation – will share in the startup’s success or failure. This development might be one reason Ford is pessimistic about its 2017 earnings after two straight years of record industry sales.  Others could include major recalls and litigation, or an additional major acquisition. (Ford Motor Says 2017 Profit Will be Lower Than 2016, Ford Settles Navistar Diesel Class Action in Canada, Three Ford Recalls in North America on +400,000 Vehicles)

The very small Argo AI team of specialists in robotics and artificial intelligence is led by founders Bryan Salesky, CEO, and Peter Rander, COO. Both are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and former heads of the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively. They are up against some industry giants pursuing autonomous vehicles. (Toyota Expands Autonomous Vehicle Program with Jaybridge Robotics Software People for Crash-Free Driving, Honda Has Sophisticated Language Analysis Technologies,  Autoliv: Learning Intelligent Vehicle to Debut at CES Tomorrow, NHTSA – Artificial Intelligence is ‘Driver’ in Autonomous Cars, Toyota Mobility Services Via Car Sharing Firm Getaround, Nissan to Start Autonomous Vehicle Tests in London)

“As Ford expands to be an auto and a mobility company, we believe that investing in Argo AI will create significant value for our shareholders by strengthening Ford’s leadership in bringing self-driving vehicles to market in the near term and by creating technology that could be licensed to others in the future,” said Ford President and CEO Mark Fields, who is under criticism from some shareholders for Ford’s languishing stock price.

The current programmers developing Ford’s autonomous vehicles – the machine-learning software that acts as the control of autonomous vehicles – will be combined with the robotics knowledge of Argo AI. Ford claims it will continue the development of its purpose-built autonomous vehicle hardware platform, as well as on systems integration, manufacturing, exterior and interior design, and regulatory policy management.

“We are at an inflection point in using artificial intelligence in a wide range of applications, and the successful deployment of self-driving cars will fundamentally change how people and goods move,” claimed Salesky.

By the end of this year, Argo AI expects to have more than 200 employees based in the company’s Pittsburgh headquarters, in Southeastern Michigan and the Bay Area of California. Argo AI’s initial focus will be to support Ford’s autonomous vehicle development and production. In the future, Argo AI could license its technology to other companies and sectors looking for autonomous capability.

About Ken Zino

Ken Zino is an auto industry veteran with global experience in print, broadcast and electronic media. He has auto testing, marketing, public relations and communications expertise garnered while working in Asia, Europe and the U.S.
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