Ford has announced plans to invest US$1 billion in tech startup Argo AI for self-driving vehicles. The investment will be able to assist the Detroit car manufacturer to reach its goal of commercial ride sharing fleets by 2021.
Ford invests US$1 billion in Argo AI. Argo AI will help the car manufacturer build a 'virtual driver system' for a fully autonomous vehicle which company will be able to develop by 2021. The system will be called SAE Level 4 and is one of five levels of autonomous vehicles. The levels describe a self-driving car's capability for complete control in certain conditions.
Mark Fields, Chief Executive Officer of the Detroit-based car manufacturer, has stated that the US$1 billion investment is in line with previous announcements on capital expenditures the company has planned. The investment will make the company Argo AI's largest shareholder.
Argo AI is looking to hire more than 200 employees this year. This is line with the startup helping the car manufacturer with its planned fleet self-driving vehicles in four years.
At a press conference announcing the investment, Fields mentioned the move as a combination of "the benefits of a technology startup with the experience and discipline" that the car manufacturer has. He further added that technology "could be licensed to other companies" once finished.
Argo AI is a tech startup based in Pittsburgh that focuses on artificial intelligence and robotics. The company was founded by former Google and Uber executives Brian Salesky and Peter Rander. Salesky headed hardware development at Google's self-driving unit Waymo while Rander was an engineer at Uber's self-driving car research project.
Investments made by Ford in the field of transportation technology have been fairly modest compared to other car manufacturers. One large investment from the company in the past year was to buy a minority stake in Velodyne. Velodyne manufactures laser-based sensing systems for autonomous vehicles. General Motors on the hand acquired self-driving startup Cruise Automation based in Silicon Valley and had invested US$500 million in Uber competitor Lyft.