Ford to invest $1 bln in autonomous vehicle tech firm Argo AI

Ford and Argo AI announce investment

Argo certainly has the pedigree to make this a fruitful relationship - after all, founders Bryan Salesky (who now serves as the CEO) and Peter Rander (chief operating officer) formerly led the self-driving auto teams at Google and Uber, respectively.

"This open collaboration is unlike any other partnership - allowing us to benefit from combining the speed of a startup with Ford's strengths in scaling technology, systems integration and vehicle design", said Raj Nair, Ford's chief technical officer and executive vice president of global product development.

The $1 billion investment over the next five years - which turns the AI startup into a subsidiary of the more than 100-year-old automaker - is part of a string of big bets Ford has made on self-driving cars in the last year. The company was formed "late last year" by Salesky and Rander, both alumni of Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center, which is a leader in the development of artificial intelligence and autonomous driving technology. Bryan Salesky, Argo CEO and co-founder, said that teams will be integrated within a few months.

"This is a move by Ford to be able to attract and retain talent", said Mike Ramsey, an analyst for Gartner, a research firm. The latter, which will now have five board members has also revealed plans to have more than 200 team members by the end of this year. The company has been structured to operate with a good amount of independence.

Mark Fields, president and chief executive of Ford. Ford also noted that the technology developed by Argo AI could eventually be licensed out.

-In the race to make self-driving cars an everyday reality, Ford may have just pulled into the lead. Salesky said, "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".

"We were very impressed".

Ford is taking another big step in its ambitious self-driving vehicle project. Ford will be the majority stakeholder in the company.

Experts have long warned that legacy automakers such as Ford risk being disrupted by tech companies like Google. He also led the mapping and localization team of Uber.

Argo AI, based in Pittsburgh, will provide the "brains" for virtual driving systems.

The Argo AI team will focus totally on developing Level 4 autonomy without driver input.