Ford is investing $1 billion during the next five years in Argo AI, combining Ford's autonomous vehicle development technology with Argo AI's robotics experience and startup speed on artificial intelligence software.
Founded by former Google and Uber leaders, Argo AI will include roboticists and engineers from inside and outside of Ford working to develop a new software platform for Ford's fully autonomous vehicle coming in 2021.
Argo AI's team is led by Argo AI founders Bryan Salesky, company CEO, and Peter Rander, company COO. Both are 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 expertise of Argo AI. This partnership will work to deliver the virtual driver system for Ford's SAE level 4 self-driving vehicles.
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.
Ford will be the majority stakeholder in Argo AI. Importantly, Argo AI has been structured to operate with independence. Its employees will have significant equity participation in the company, enabling them to share in its success.
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 capability.