Ford’s goal of releasing a Level 4 autonomous vehicle by 2021 is ambitious, but the company’s latest investment could help it stick to that timeline.
The American automaker announced Friday it will invest $1 billion over the next five years in artificial intelligence startup Argo AI, making Ford the company’s majority stakeholder. Ford said its engineers will work with Argo’s to develop a virtual driver system for autonomous vehicles.
Argo’s co-founders, CEO Bryan Salesky and COO Peter Rander, have experience working at some big-name tech companies. Salesky previously worked on the self-driving car program at Google, and Rander was a member of Uber’s autonomous driving technology team.
“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,” Ford CEO Mark Fields said in a statement. “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 startup’s board will be comprised of executives from both Argo and Ford: Salesky; Rander; Raj Nair, Ford’s executive vice president of global product development; John Casesa, Ford’s vice president of global strategy. It will be headed by an independent director.
Ford said although it’s the majority stakeholder, Argo will be structured such that it operates “with substantial independence.” In addition, Argo’s employees will be given “significant” equity in the company.
Thumbnail photo via Ford