Ford Invests In Tech Startup To Develop Self-Driving Car
12 February, 2017, 00:29 | Author: Alicia Barber
Ford Motor Co. showed just how serious it is about the future of self-driving cars today, announcing plans to invest $1 billion over the next five years in the secretive artificial intelligence startup Argo AI. Ford has a very good team, but Argo AI comes with the ability to put it under the leadership of two pioneers in the autonomous vehicle technology field, to work in a startup team environment and have the compensation package that will attract incremental talent. Fields compared the potential impact of Ford's plans to mass-produce autonomous vehicles to how Ford changed automotive manufacturing by introducing the moving assembly line in 1913.
Fields said he believed Argo AI will create significant value to FMC, which could make the technology available to other car-makers. By the end of this year, Argo expects to employ more than 200 people at the company's Pittsburgh headquarters and at sites near Detroit and Silicon Valley.
With this investment, the automaker will also become the largest shareholder in Argo AI. Ford even went so far as to suggest that the software it develops with Argo could be licensed to other companies.
Argo AI is based in Pittsburgh and was recently founded by Bryan Salesky, who headed hardware development at Waymo, Google's self-driving vehicle unit, and Peter Rander, who was an engineer at Uber's autonomous auto research project. Equity in the firm will be offered to tempt engineers away from other companies, the Verge reports.
Ford's Global Product Development and Chief Technical Officer, Raj Nair, explained how Argo AI will be integrated into Ford's vehicle and technology development teams.
And Ford also made a series of investments a year ago to boost its self-driving program.
The cars that hit the streets in 2021 would be capable of SAE Level 4 autonomy, which means the virtual-driver software should be able to handle typical road conditions unassisted.
Ford will continue to lead the development, but Argo will join forces to strengthen the "commercialization" of the self-driving vehicles. And Ford hasn't acquired all of the startup, it's only the majority stockholder.
"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".
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