Ford announced the company will invest $1 billion in artificial intelligence startup Argo AI over the next five years in an effort to develop a virtual driver system for its first autonomous driving vehicle planned for 2021.
The company doesn’t want to stay behind its competitors, and since the current focus of the automotive industry is self-driving tech, Ford is planning on releasing a self-driving vehicle of its own.
Ford President and CEO Mark Fields statement reads: “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.”
After releasing the Ford Focus Electric, Ford entered straight into the autonomous driving industry branch with the huge startup investment. Argo AI is set to produce an autonomous driving system that will be capable of learning, making it adept at self-driving. The system will avoid other cars, will be able to avoid other cars and pedestrians, and should offer a complete self-driving experience.
Ford’s internal team of experts will collaborate with the guys and girls from Argo AI in developing the system and making it completely usable in time for the release of Ford’s SAE Level 4 self-driving car.
Ford chief technical officer and executive vice president of global product development Raj Nair stated that “Working together with Argo AI gives Ford a distinct competitive advantage at the intersection of the automotive and technology industries.”
With the huge investment, Ford acquired a large chunk of ownership in the AI startup, but as Mark Fields said “There’s a war for talent out there. While we have the majority, we’re giving a significant chunk to Bryan and Peter and the employees so they can be competitive with the other startups in this space.”
Argo AI was founded just last year in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander. Aside from Pittsburgh, the company has headquarters in Michigan and California. Both came from the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. Salesky worked on Google Self-Driving Car Project while Rander was one of the best engineers of Uber.