Ford Goes Big on AI With $1 Billion Investment

The automaker has acquired majority ownership of Pittsburgh, Penn.-based Argo AI.
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Ford on Friday announced plans to invest $1 billion over the next five years in the artificial intelligence startup Argo AI.

The automaker has acquired majority ownership of Pittsburgh, Penn.-based Argo AI, which was founded by Google and Uber self-driving car veterans Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander. Going forward, the startup will work to develop a new software platform for Ford's fully autonomous vehicle, which is expected to arrive in 2021.

Salesky, Argo's CEO, formerly served as director of hardware development for self-driving cars at Google. Rander, the company's COO, was previously Uber's engineering lead. Both are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center.

Ford said this investment puts it in a better place to bring self-driving cards to market in the near term. The Argo AI team will initially focus on supporting Ford's autonomous vehicle development and production efforts, but may in the future look to license this technology to other companies.

Argo's roboticists and engineers will work alongside the team developing Ford's virtual driver system, described as "the machine-learning software that acts as the brain of autonomous vehicles." By the end of this year, Argo expects to employ more than 200 people at the company's Pittsburgh headquarters and at sites near Detroit and Silicon Valley.

"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 President and 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."

Last year, Ford was among a group that invested $6.6 million in Civil Maps, a California start-up working on AI-powered mapping software for self-driving cars.


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