Late last week, Ford purchased a majority stake in Argo AI, a startup firm specialising in self-driving vehicle technology, for US$1 billion ($1.3 billion).
Argo is run by Bryan Salesky, previously the director of hardware development at Google’s Self-Driving Project, now known as Waymo. The company’s chief operating officer is Peter Rander, who was formerly the lead engineer at the Uber Advanced Technology Center.
Both Salesky and Rander have a long history in robotics, and have spent time at Cernegie Mellon University.
In announcing the partnership with Argo AI, Mark Fields, CEO of Ford, said, “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 two companies will work together to achieve Ford’s goal of having an SAE level four self-driving car available to fleet buyers by 2021.
Above: (left to right) Peter Rander, Argo AI COO; Ken Washington, Ford’s head of research and advanced engineering; Mark Fields, Ford CEO; Bryan Saleksy, Argo AI CEO; Raj Nair, Ford’s head of product development; Laura Merling, head of Ford Smart Mobility.
Ford says that it has acquired a majority shareholding in Argo AI, although it didn’t say what percentage of the firm it now owns. Argo AI will receive its billion dollars over the course of five years, and will continue to operate in a largely independent manner. This will also allow Argo to license its self-driving technology to other companies.
Argo will remain headquartered in Pittsburgh, although it will have satellite offices near San Francisco, and outside of Detroit.
As with many new firms, Argo AI will use “equity participation” in order to incentivise existing employees and to attract new staff, with the company expecting to have a head count of over 200 by the end of 2017.