Investment in Argo hopes to see autonomous vehicles on the road by 2021.
The Ford motor company has announced that it’s to invest $1 billion in the next five years to artificial intelligence (A.I.) startup Argo. The company was created by former Google and Uber employees. Ford is hoping to further the development of autonomous vehicle technology, and have a roadworthy commercially viable vehicle on the market by 2021.
While the investment makes Ford the majority stakeholder in Argo AI, the automaker stated that Argo will be structured to operate with “substantial independence.”
Argo was founded by CEO Brian Salesky and chief operating officer Peter Rander, who led self-driving car teams at Google and Uber respectively. “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 on the company website. “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.”
The team currently developing Ford’s own virtual driver system (the machine-learning software that acts as the brain of autonomous vehicles) will combine with Argo’s own employees, and hope to deliver a virtual driver system that will work safely with the vehicle manufacturer’s self-driving vehicles.
“We are at an inflection point in using artificial intelligence in a wide range of applications, and the successful deployment of self-driving cars will fundamentally change how people and goods move,” said Argo founder Salesky. “We are energized by Ford’s commitment and vision for the future of mobility, and we believe this partnership will enable self-driving cars to be commercialized and deployed at scale to extend affordable mobility to all.”
Argo AI will receive the money over the next five years, and expects to have 200 employees by the end of 2017. The company’s headquarters will be based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and will also have sites in southeastern Michigan and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Ford is not the first company to invest in an AI startup company, though perhaps it is the first to do so with such a cadre of high calibre industry experts. General Motors recently acquired Cruise to help it achieve its goals of having roadworthy driverless cars.