Ford Motor Company is investing $1
billion during the next five years in Argo AI, an artificial
intelligence company, to develop a virtual driver system for the
automaker’s autonomous vehicle coming in 2021 – and for potential
license to other companies.
Founded by former Google and Uber leaders, 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. 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,” 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
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 startup 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 Salesky. “We are energized by Ford’s commitment and vision for the
future of mobility, and we believe this partnership will enable
self-driving cars to be commercialized and deployed at scale to extend
affordable mobility to all.”
The collaboration supports Ford’s intent to have a fully autonomous, SAE
level 4-capable vehicle for commercial application in mobility services
“Working together with Argo AI gives Ford a distinct competitive
advantage at the intersection of the automotive and technology
industries,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Global
Product Development, and chief technical officer. “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.”
Also complementing the relationship will be Ford Smart Mobility LLC,
which will lead on 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.
will be the majority stakeholder in Argo AI. Importantly, Argo AI has
been structured to operate with substantial independence. Its employees
will have significant equity participation in the company, enabling them
to share in its success. Argo AI’s board will have five members: Nair;
John Casesa, Ford group vice president, Global Strategy; Salesky; Rander;
and an independent director.
The $1 billion investment in Argo AI will be made over five years and is
consistent with the autonomous vehicle capital allocation plan shared
last September as part of Ford Investor Day.
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 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