Ford just announced that it is spending $1 billion on artificial intelligence to achieve its ambitious goal of putting self-driving cars into production by 2021.
The money will be spent over the next five years on Argo A.I., a Pittsburgh-based start-up, to develop the autonomous car, but not just any autonomous car: Ford wants to reach level 4 autonomy in less than five years.
Ford CEO Mark Fields announced the self-driving goal back in September, but until now it wasn’t quite clear exactly how it was going to achieve it. The investment in Argo A.I. — founded by former Google and Uber autonomous car experts at the end of 2016 — seems to be how Ford plans to get it done. It’s not a total acquisition by Ford though: Argo A.I. is going to be able to sell its software to competitors in the future, Argo A.I. made clear.
Why Ford picked Argo A.I. isn’t immediately clear, but the money speaks volumes about Ford’s intentions.
A Ford representative explained the company’s reasoning like this to Inverse: “We share a vision with the founders of Argo A.I. for how to make fully autonomous vehicles successful, and we are thrilled to be working together.” Exactly what this vision means isn’t laid out yet by either company.
Argo A.I. is a startup working on artificial intelligence for autonomous driving that was created in late 2016 by two founders. Bryan Salesky was the director of hardware development for Google’s self-driving car team and Peter Rander helped Uber develop its initial self-driving car. Both are robotics experts specializing in autonomous systems, and according to the press statement from Ford, it’s this expertise that attracted the buy.
Argo A.I. has been brought on-board to work primarily on Ford’s virtual driver system.” The virtual driver system is what Ford is calling its autonomous driving software, that’s based on machine learning techniques to build an A.I. It sounds like Argo will be collaborating with the current virtual driver team to integrate the system with the autonomous sensor hardware and push the software forward.