The Mobility Company Known as Ford is Investing $1 Billion Into an Artificial Intelligence Startup

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Ford Motor Company intends to invest $1 billion into tech startup Argo AI over the next five years, giving the Blue Oval a majority stake in the company as it continues to reach for the goal of producing a fully autonomous vehicle by 2021.

The Pittsburgh-based Argo will help the Detroit automaker develop a “virtual driver system” for its proposed commercial ride-sharing fleets before moving on to retail vehicles. Ford even went so far as to suggest that the software it develops with Argo could be licensed to other companies.

While still officially an automaker, the Blue Oval really is going all in on its new identity as a mobility company and it isn’t afraid to remind everyone of all of the important work it feels that it is doing.

“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 Friday’s official statement. “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.”

Argo was founded by Bryan Salesky, previously with Google, and Peter Rander, formerly of Uber. Ford says that the startup will have offices in southeastern Michigan, California, and Pittsburgh before the end of the year. It will also employ an additional 200 workers between those locations.

Last year, Ford developed a Smart Mobility subsidiary to invest in and help develop emerging mobility opportunities as it branches away from the traditional role of an automotive manufacturer. Since then, the company has increased its involvement in mobility experiments and commitment to connectivity tech, autonomous vehicles, consumer analytics, ride-sharing, and passenger vehicle alternatives — like bicycles or Ford’s bizarre Carr-E mobility disk.

[Image: Ford Motor Co]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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10 of 23 comments
  • Zip89123 Zip89123 on Feb 10, 2017

    One billion down the drain. A stock buyback would have been smarter.

    • See 7 previous
    • Zip89123 Zip89123 on Feb 12, 2017

      @JimZ Just wanted to give you something to swear about JimZ.

  • Voyager Voyager on Feb 13, 2017

    Still... the biggest strides towards implementing self-driving can be made by the automaker itself. Why would you want a big, cumbersome self-driving car that will get you stuck in traffic, if the average ride consists of one-and-a-half person? Robotics should challenge to reinvent the car, instead of prolong shelf life of the sort of car we already know. Here's an idea...

  • Bd2 I wonder how TTAC is celebrating this JuneTeenth? Rolling around naked in hyundai flavored mud somewhere like they usually do?
  • Wjtinfwb I'd like to see a Ford/Mazda relationship restarted. Both companies have some car guys keeping the flame alive and could develop a sports car slightly bigger than a Miata and pick and choose from each other's parts bin to put together some attractive powertrain combo's. Even a Mazda 3 AWD with the 300HP EcoBoost 2.3L, manual and AWD from the Focus RS would be welcome. Even better, a factory Miata V8 with the 480 HP Coyote (i know it wont fit...) and a manual gearbox. And how about a CX-5 with a 2.7L EcoBoost V6 with AWD and an chassis tuned for sport. Lots of possibilities.
  • Blueice Patient 28, sorry, but it is Oktoberfest. Bring a kegof Kraut beer and we will 50% you.
  • Bd2 Probably Toyota, Hyundai is killing them these days.
  • Wolfwagen If Isuzu could update this truck and keep the cost between $25K - $30K they would sell like ice pops on dollar day in a heat wave.