Dearborn-based automaker Ford Motor Co. today announced a $1 billion investment in Pittsburgh-based Argo AI over the next five years. The investment will be used to develop a virtual driver system for an autonomous vehicle Ford has planned for 2021, and for potential licensing opportunities.
The investment makes Ford the majority owner of Argo, which has been structured to operate with substantial independence. The $1 billion investment is consisted with the autonomous vehicle capital allocation plan shared last September as part of Ford Investor Day. By the end of 2017, Argo plans to have more than 200 team members throughout the Pittsburgh headquarters and major sites in Southeastern Michigan and the Bay Area of California.
Argo was founded by former Google and Uber leaders, and aims to combine Ford’s autonomous vehicle development expertise with their robotics experience and startup speed on artificial intelligence software. The team of experts in robotics and artificial intelligence is led by Argo AI founders Bryan Salesky, company CEO, and Peter Rander, company COO. Both are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and former leaders on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively.
“The next decade will be defined by the automation of the automobile, and autonomous vehicles will have as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago,” says Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO. “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.”
Ford will continue to lead on development of its purpose-built autonomous vehicle hardware platform, as well as on systems integration, manufacturing, exterior and interior design, and regulatory policy management. Fields adds that Argo AI’s agility and Ford’s scale uniquely combine the benefits of a technology startup with the experience and discipline of the automaker’s industry-leading autonomous vehicle development program.
Ford Smart Mobility LLC will also complement the working relationship, which is meant to 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.