Ford to in­vest US1-bil­lion in car ‘brains’

Motor Equipment News - - OEM -

Ford has an­nounced it is in­vest­ing US one bil­lion dur­ing the next five years in Argo AI, an ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence com­pany, to de­velop a vir­tual driver sys­tem for the com­pany’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 ma­chine­learn­ing 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 four 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 man­age­ment.

Argo AI will join forces with Ford’s au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle soft­ware devel­op­ment ef­fort to strengthen the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion of self-driv­ing ve­hi­cles. Argo AI’s agility and Ford’s scale uniquely com­bine the ben­e­fits of a tech­nol­ogy start-up with the ex­pe­ri­ence and dis­ci­pline of the au­tomaker’s in­dus­try-lead­ing au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle devel­op­ment pro­gramme.

“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 en­er­gised 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.”

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 li­cence its tech­nol­ogy to other com­pa­nies and sec­tors look­ing for au­ton­o­mous ca­pa­bil­ity.

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