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Ford to invest US$1B in A.I. startup toward self-driving cars

Lucas Mearian | Feb. 13, 2017
The automaker is far from alone in spending on Silicon Valley software makers

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International, a U.S.-based industry standards organization, has established six autonomous driving categories where Level 0 represents no automation and Level 5 is a fully autonomous vehicle that controls all aspects of driving previously performed by humans.

While Ford already has a substantial in-house autonomous vehicle program, Ramsey said the carmaker needs leadership and the ability to attract and retain more talent.

"Argo will act somewhat independently and hopefully be able to ramp up talent," Ramsey said.

Ford will become a majority stakeholder in Argo, and John Casesa, Ford's group vice president of global strategy, and Raj Nair, the automaker's product chief and chief technical officer, will sit on Argo's five-person board.

By the end of this year, Argo will have offices in southeastern Michigan and California, according to Ford, along with its Pittsburgh headquarters. It will employ more than 200 workers at those three sites combined.

chariot ford autonomous Ford

Last year, Ford purchased Chariot, a San Francisco-based on-demand shuttle service, which also operates in Austin, Texas and is planning to expand to eight other cities.  

Another subsidiary created last March, Ford Smart Mobility LLC, will take the lead on the commercialization of Ford's self-driving vehicles, which includes options for using autonomous vehicles to move goods and people, such as ride sharing, ride hailing or package delivery fleets.

Ford Smart Mobility also purchased Chariot, a San Francisco-based on-demand shuttle service, which also operates in Austin, Texas and is planning to expand to eight other cities.

"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. "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."

autonomous fusion mcity 39a9958 hr 100677146 orig Ford

A Ford self-driving prototype being tested at the University of Michigan's Mcity prvoing grounds.

Software is the key differentiator in the functionality of semi-autonomous and fully autonomous vehicles. The average vehicle today has about 50 computer processors that control everything from engine control units (ECUs) to Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) such as parking assist and adaptive cruise control.

ADAS and fully autonomous vehicle technology are the sweet spots for Silicon Valley software developers, whose code can tie together the myriad cameras and sensors needed for a car to drive itself.

 

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