By on January 30, 2019

Argo AI, the Pittsburgh-based firm Ford pumped $1 billion into and handed responsibility for educating its self-driving vehicles, just received a go-ahead for testing in the State of California. The company gained a testing permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday, making its autonomous trials perfectly legal on public roads.

Ford’s current trajectory has its autonomous vehicles entering the commercial market by 2021. That’s two years after General Motors promised to do the same. However, recent events cast doubt over whether GM will be able to meet its self-imposed deadlines (some of which dictate future investments from its partners) and start mass production of computer-controlled cars by the end of this year. It’s not just GM that’s having trouble, either. A critical look into autonomous development shows many companies are struggling with advancing the technology to a point that would make it commercially viable.

The Blue Oval might be better positioned in the autonomous race than initially presumed.

That still doesn’t make it an industry leader, though. For the most part, the company is trusting Argo with R&D in Pittsburgh while Ford continues work at its home office in Dearborn, MI. It’s also mapping public roads in Washington, D.C and Miami while readying the next phase of testing. Unfortunately, the scope of these programs aren’t quite as broad as the competition’s.

Waymo had well over 600 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans operating on public roads by the middle of last year and started fielding modified Jaguar I-Pace crossovers over the summer. In May, Waymo announced a deal with Fiat Chrysler for an additional 62,000 minivans to help it transition from testing to a commercial venture. Meanwhile, Argo expects to have over 100 in its nationwide test fleet by the end of 2019.

While it’s unclear whether Argo’s Californian testing is directly related to Ford, it would be shocking to learn otherwise. The automaker invested $1 billion in Argo AI in February, 2017 — not long after the company’s founding by Bryan Salesky, a former member of Google’s self-driving car project, and Pete Rander, who did time with Uber. Since the partnership’s introduction, Ford has been Argo AI’s sole project.

[Images: Ford Motor Co.]

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