According to the latest reports, American automotive giant, Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), has made another significant investment towards developing its self-driving technology. The company has put a billion into a startup named Argo AI.
CEO, Mark Field, has stated that the next decade or so will be a significant period for the “automation of the automobile”. The company boss believes that self-driving technology will have the same impact that Ford had on the automotive assembly line a 100 years ago.
The investment helps Ford get its hands on plenty of self-driving technology and knowledge. Argo AI’s CEO, Bryan Salesky, worked on the self-driving car created by Google, while Peter Rander, Argo’s co-founder, worked on Uber’s self-driving technology. Needless to say, both members come from stellar companies with significant expertise in the arena of self-driving cars.
With its investment, Ford has positioned itself to be a majority stakeholder in the firm. According to Field, Argo AI will serve as a subsidiary as far as the accounting goes. However, they will be given enough autonomy. Engineers will be provided with equity options in the company in order to encourage loyalty.
Salesky commented that their decision to settle with Ford came after they saw the vision the company had for the future of automobile automation. He added that Ford was the only company that seemed to understand the future of automation and what needed to be done to help such an ecosystem establish itself and thrive.
This isn’t Ford’s first investment in the area of self-driving technology. In August 2016, the company had invested in Velodyne, a firm that manufactured lidar sensors, and Civil Maps, a company involved in 3D mapping. Ford also bought SAIPS, a company said to be involved with machine-vision and signed an agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience, another machine-vision firm.
Argo AI will be working on what Ford refers to as the Virtual Driver System. The system is basically an AI application that will help run autonomous vehicles. Argo has even hinted that it would be willing to license the technology platform to other manufacturers of original equipment.
One of the primary motivators behind the recent investment is Ford’s need for more talent, which will be necessary if it plans to meet the 2021 deadline. A team of employees currently working at Ford’s software division will be transferred to Argo AI. However, hardware and vehicle design teams will continue under Ford.