Argo AI is the focus of a one billion investment over the next five years from Ford, in a bid to collaborate on the car maker's autonomous vehicle offering.
The artificial intelligence company is founded by the former leaders of the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, and will include roboticists and engineers developing a new software platform (with potential for licensing) for Ford's fully autonomous vehicle, coming in 2021.
Bryan Salesky, ex-Google and Argo AI CEO, and Peter Rander, ex-Uber and Argo AI and both are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center.
Ford President and CEO Mark Fields said of the announcement "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."
"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 current team developing Ford's virtual driver system – the machine-learning software that acts as the brain of autonomous vehicles – will be working with the team from Argo AI, creating the virtual driver system for Ford's SAE level 4 self-driving vehicles scheduled for release in 2021.
"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," Salesky said in a statement. "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 commercialised and deployed at scale to extend affordable mobility to all."
Ford's executive vice president of Global Product Development, chief technical officer Raj Nair said "Working together with Argo AI gives Ford a distinct competitive advantage at the intersection of the automotive and technology industries.
"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."
Ford Smart Mobility LLC will lead on the commercialisation strategy for Ford's self-driving vehicles, including choices for using autonomous vehicles to move goods and people, such as ride sharing, ride hailing or package delivery fleets.
Ford will be the majority stakeholder in Argo AI, but the company says that Argo AI "has been structured to operate with substantial independence".
"Its employees will have significant equity participation in the company, enabling them to share in its success," Ford said in a statement. "By the end of this year, Argo AI expects to have more than 200 team members, based in the company's Pittsburgh headquarters and at major sites in Southeastern Michigan and the Bay Area of California."