Ford Makes $1 Billion Investment in Artificial-Intelligence Startup to Aid Autonomous Effort
Ford is usually placing a billion-dollar bet that will a smaller Pittsburgh-based company will help that will launch fully self-driving vehicles within the next four years.
The automaker said Friday that will has acquired a majority stake in Argo AI, a startup focused on artificial intelligence that will is usually headed by two executives who once worked on the Google as well as also also Uber self-driving-vehicle teams.
Ford CEO Mark Fields said the investment, spread over 5 years, will help Ford solidify its own self-driving system. Not only that will, however there’s a possibility the companies eventually could license their technology for others to use.
“We think This kind of has the potential to create significant value inside the company,” he said. “One, that will allows us to bring autonomous vehicles to the marketplace inside the near term, however even after that will, there’s This kind of ability to potentially license that will to various other OEMs. This kind of is usually a way to get all the benefits as well as also also look at ways to unlock value inside the investments that will we make.”
Ford has previously stated its intent to deliver Level 4 autonomous vehicles—those in which a driver’s supervision is usually not required—by the end of 2021.
Chief technology officer Raj Nair said numerous current Ford employees working on autonomous technology will become Argo employees. Employees working on the autonomous-vehicle platform are likely to stick with Ford; employees working on the virtual-driver system that will Argo is usually charged with developing are likely to shift to the fresh company, where they’ll work under the leadership of Argo co-founders Bryan Salesky as well as also also Peter Rander.
Salesky is usually Argo AI’s CEO. He had previously been a member of Google’s self-driving-car project, while chief operating officer Rander had worked on Uber’s team. Both are graduates of Carnegie Mellon University, whose alumni are playing an increasingly central role inside the development of autonomous vehicles.
Argo is usually supposed to be staffed with as many as 0 employees by the end of 2017, including both Ford veterans as well as also also numerous newcomers the company is usually aggressively looking to attract. The company will continue to be headquartered in Pittsburgh, with additional operations starting in southeast Michigan as well as also also the Bay Area.
The investment comes at a time when automakers, suppliers, as well as also also tech companies ramp up their development of artificial-intelligence applications. AI was a key topic at CES last month, with industry leaders such as Nvidia announcing partnerships at a feverish pace.
Ford acquired SAIPS, an Israeli artificial-intelligence company, last year. Separately, much of the automaker’s senior autonomous-development leadership has been in place for more than a decade, which gives the company perhaps the most experienced as well as also also consistent team inside the industry. Fields chafed at the notion that will the Argo investment is usually meant to shore up weaknesses inside the existing autonomous system; he said the move will add “robustness” to the current state of the company’s technology.
“that will’s not a hole, however that will’s a strengthening of the virtual-driver-system team,” he said. “I think we have a Great team, however when you put that will under the leadership of two pioneers . . . that will’s a win-win-win situation, coupled with our ability to integrate that will back into the vehicle as well as also also bring that will all to scale.”
Nothing alterations for the company’s intention to put its resources into developing fully self-driving vehicles. Unlike competitors such as General Motors, Ford has eschewed the idea of developing an autonomous vehicle that will may sometimes require a handoff back to a human driver.
This kind of is usually the largest of several investments Ford has made over the past year as that will intently pursues a self-declared transformation coming from an automotive company into a mobility company. that will push started off in March 2016 with the creation of Ford Smart Mobility as well as also also continued last year with investments in Velodyne, Civil Maps, as well as also also Nirenberg Neuroscience as well as also also acquisitions of SAIPS as well as also also the Chariot ride-sharing service.
- Ford Promises Fully Autonomous Cars by 2021
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- Ford Plans Big Expansion of Ride-Sharing Shuttle Service
The Argo deal, however, may signal the end of This kind of recent investment spree.
“I think, relative to the technical approach we’re taking, we’re pretty aligned on what we need,” Nair said. “At the same time, we’re always open to fresh technologies, fresh advancements, as well as also also fresh partners. This kind of space is usually advancing so rapidly, there will be fresh innovations by 2021. however we’re also confident in terms of the resources as well as also also partners we have right at This kind of point. We’re in a genuinely Great position.”