Ford invests $1bn in AI company

As part of its ‘drive for autonomous vehicle leadership’, Ford has invested $1bn in the artificial intelligence company Argo AI. Ultimately this could mean that Transits are the first completely autonomous vans on the road.

In a statement issued on Friday, Ford said : ”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.”

Ford added: “Investment in Argo AI strengthens Ford’s leadership in bringing self-driving vehicles to market in the near term and creates technology that could be licensed to others in the future.”

Founders of Argo AI, Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander both went to Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Centre and while Salesky worked on the self driving car team of Google, Rander was a leader on the equivalent team at Uber.

Ford has said that the current team developing the virtual driver system will be combined with the robotics skill and expertise of Argo AI.

Together they will work to “deliver the virtual driver system for Ford’s SAE level 4 self-driving vehicles”. Autonomous vehicles are grade in levels one to five – with the level 1 representing a limited level of automated assistance for the human driver, and level 5 being a vehicle that is fully autonomous in all weather conditions, terrains and driving environments.

“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.

Ford will be the majority stakeholder in Argo AI and John Casesa, Ford group vice president, Global Strategy, will be on the five-member Argo AI board. The automotive company will be making the $1bn investment over five years.

Ford Smart Mobility LLC will lead on the commercialization strategy for Ford’s self-driving vehicles. According to Ford: “This includes choices for using autonomous vehicles to move goods and people, such as ride sharing, ride hailing or package delivery fleets.”

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