Ford makes $1bn AI investment

Ford Motor Company will invest $1bn in an artificial intelligence technology company during the next five years.

Its investment in Argo AI will support the development of a virtual driver systems for the automaker’s autonomous vehicle coming in 2021 – and for potential license to other companies.

Argo AI is bringing together some of the most experienced roboticists and engineers working in autonomy from inside and outside of Ford. The team of experts in robotics and artificial intelligence is led by Argo AI founders Bryan Salesky, company CEO, and Peter Rander, company COO, former leaders on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber.

‘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,’ said Ford president and CEO Mark Fields. ‘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.’

The current team developing Ford’s virtual driver system – the machine-learning software that acts as the brain of autonomous vehicles – will be 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 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.

Argo AI will join forces with Ford’s autonomous vehicle software development effort to strengthen the commercialization of self-driving vehicles. Argo AI’s agility and Ford’s scale uniquely combine the benefits of a technology start-up with the experience and discipline of the automaker’s industry-leading autonomous vehicle development program.

‘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,’ said Bryan. ‘We are energised by Ford’s commitment and vision for the future of mobility, and we believe this partnership will enable self-driving cars to be commercialised and deployed at scale to extend affordable mobility to all.’

Also complementing the relationship will be Ford Smart Mobility LLC, which will lead on the commercialisation 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.

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 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.