Automobile manufacturer Ford Motor has announced to invest $1 billion over five years in Argo AI, a Pittsburgh-based artificial intelligence company. As part of the partnership, the AI company will help Ford develop the autonomous system for a self-driving vehicle that the car company plans to bring to the road by 2021.
Founded by Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander, former Google and Uber leaders, Argo AI will include roboticists and engineers from inside and outside of Ford working to develop a new software platform for the autonomous system.
“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 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,” he added.
Also complementing the relationship will be Ford Smart Mobility LLC, which will lead on the commercialization strategy for Ford’s self-driving vehicles. This includes choices for using autonomous vehicles to move goods and people, such as ride sharing, ride hailing or package delivery fleets.
“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,” said Mark Fields, President and CEO, Ford.
“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,” Fields added.
With this partnership, Ford will become the majority stakeholder in Argo AI. The latter, which will currently have five board members has also revealed plans to have more than 200 team members by the end of this year.
This deal doesn’t come as a surprise as last year, the automobile pioneer had already announced plans to sell driverless cars by 2021 with interest in partnerships and investments in the arena. While one may be amused by the extent of this investment, with advancements like GM’s acquisition of the self-driving car startup Cruise last year or progress from Google’s Waymo, this was a necessary leap for Ford. It is only wise for car companies to go off the beaten path if they want to be at par with the evolving technology.