Eyeing a Self-Driving Future, Ford Drops $1B on an AI Startup

Eyeing a Self-Driving Future, Ford Drops $1B on an AI Startup

Pittsburgh-based Argo AI, which was founded by former Google and Uber leaders, will work to develop a new software platform for Ford, strengthening its self-driving offering, Ford said in an announcement late last night.

Ford aims to recruit 200 employees to the unit by the end of the year.

Mark Fields, chief executive of Ford, said: "Autonomous vehicles will have a significant impact on society just as Ford's assembly line did a hundred years ago". Ford's investment means Argo has scored a significant source of funding that will enable it to become a major and immediate player in the artificial intelligence space, while helping the carmaker stay at the forefront of the autonomous vehicle race.

Just like any specialized industry - and AI for Autonomous Driving is really as specialized as it gets - there is a very limited pool of capable engineers, so Ford clearly hope that Salesky and Rander not only know their stuff, but can attract other, equally able, techies ahead of Google, Uber, Tesla and every other auto maker on the planet.

He also said that although Argo AI will develop software specifically for Ford's cars, it would also be able to license that software to other companies.

"Ford may be one of the largest American companies, but it does not have pockets as deep as Apple and Google", The Verge notes. The company will be based in Pittsburgh but also will have development sites in MI and California, two other states with heavy investment in auto technology development.

Israel Carries Out Second Round of Strikes on Gaza
After the devastating conflict of 2014, Israel and Hamas have observed a brittle ceasefire along the largely closed border area. Earlier on Monday morning, unknown militants fired two makeshift rockets from northeast Gaza into southern Israel.

Raj Nair, Ford's executive vice president of global product development and chief technical officer, said that the investment will help the company meet its 2021 target.

Salesky formerly worked on self-driving cars at a high-profile project within Google - now known as Waymo - and Rander did the same kind of engineering at ride-hailing service Uber Technologies Inc before the two men teamed up to launch Argo late past year.

The virtual driver system, translated into English, will be the brain of the self-driving vehicle. Waymo CEO John Krafcik, a veteran of Hyundai North America, has also indicated that his company plans to sell its technology to other automakers. Ford's focus is on not only developing reliable self-driving technology, but also on making that technology commercially viable for mass-produced cars.

Most experts working in this increasingly crowded field are targeting 2021 for delivering autonomous cars to consumers, likely as part of a commercial ride-sharing fleet.

"With Argo's agility and its scale, we are combining the benefits of a technology start-up with the experience and discipline we have at Ford".

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