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Ford to invest $1bn in Argo AI for virtual driver system

Published 13 February 2017

Ford Motor said it will invest $1bn over the next five years in artificial intelligence company, Argo AI, to help put fully autonomous vehicles on the road by 2021.

The two companies will develop the core technology of Ford’s autonomous vehicle, the virtual driver system.

The investment is part of Ford’s autonomous vehicle capital allocation plan, that was announced last September.

Argo AI is founded by Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander, who are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and former Google and Uber employees, respectively. They claim to be bringing together teams of experts in robotics and artificial intelligence.

Presently, the team working on Ford’s virtual driver system, is a machine learning software that acts as the brain of autonomous vehicles. This will be combined with robotics and will be used in developing Ford’s SAE level 4 self-driving vehicles.

Argo AI will work together with Ford’s autonomous vehicle software development. Ford says that its Smart Mobility division can help in bringing out commercialisation strategy. And can include the options of carrying goods and people under ride sharing, ride hailing or package delivery fleets.

The American automaker will be the majority stakeholder in the AI start-up.

Ford president and CEO Mark Fields said: “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.

“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.”

Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky said “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.

“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.”


Image: Argo AI chief operating officer Peter Rander, Ford president and CEO Mark Fields, Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky and Ford Product Development executive vice president and chief technical officer Raj Nair. Photo: Courtesy of The Ford Motor Company.