Ford invests USD$1Bn in AI Startup for Virtual Driver System
Jazib Kaleem posted on February 15, 2017 |

Ford’s push to secure the future for self-driving vehicles has lead the automotive giant to an investment deal with Argo AI, worth USD$1 billion over the next five years.

The investment will go toward development of a virtual driver system for Ford’s SAE level 4 self-driving vehicles projected to arrive in 2021.

The current team developing Ford’s machine-learning software will be combined with the robotics talent and expertise of Argo AI, Ford stated in a release.

Key research areas will include Autonomous Vehicle Drive, 360-degree Sensor Fusion, Real Time 3D Imaging, Camera Based Pedestrian Detection and GPS-based Data Driven Healthcare.


Ford Targets Fully Autonomous Vehicle for Ride Sharing in 2021. (Image courtesy Ford Motor Company.)
Ford Targets Fully Autonomous Vehicle for Ride Sharing in 2021. (Image courtesy Ford Motor Company.)


Ford was among the early adopters to use Velodyne LiDAR sensors to accurately scan the surrounding environment of a vehicle to determine proximity to objects like other vehicles, pedestrians and more.

Ford’s first-generation autonomous vehicle platform was designed and assembled using a Ford F-250 Super Duty for participation in the DARPA Grand Challenges in 2005 and 2007. Ford’s second-generation platform was unveiled in 2013, using a Fusion Hybrid sedan.

Mark Fields, president and CEO of Ford, believes that investing in Argo AI will be vital to strengthening Ford’s leadership in bringing self-driving vehicles to market for transporting people and goods.

“The next decade will be defined by the automation of the automobile,” said Fields. “Autonomous vehicles will have as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago.”

In January 2016, Ford announced to triple its fleet of fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid Test Vehicles, which are proposed to be commercially available by 2021. Argo AI is supporting Ford on meeting its deadlines.


Drive for Autonomous Vehicle Leadership. Shown here, from left to right, are Peter Rander, Argo AI COO; Bryan Salesky, Argo AI CEO; Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO; Raj Nair, Ford executive VP, product development. (Image courtesy Ford Motor Company.)
Drive for Autonomous Vehicle Leadership. Shown here, from left to right, are Peter Rander, Argo AI COO; Bryan Salesky, Argo AI CEO; Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO; Raj Nair, Ford executive VP, product development. (Image courtesy Ford Motor Company.)

The delegation of experts is led by Argo AI founders Bryan Salesky, company CEO and Peter Rander, company COO. Both are graduates of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and are past leaders on the self-driving vehicle teams of Google and Uber, respectively. Ford will is now the major stakeholder in Argo AI, who’s initial focus will be to support Ford’s autonomous vehicle research, development and production at Silicon Valley, Michigan and Pittsburgh.

Argo AI anticipates hiring 200 employees by the end of 2017. In the future, they could provide rights to or license its technology to other businesses and sectors looking for autonomous capability.

For more on, visit the Ford website.

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