Argo gives its self-driving vehicle hardware a big upgrade

Argo has improved the cameras, radar and lidar and even added microphones to its Ford Escape test vehicles.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt
2 min read

Argo's Ford Escape self-driving test vehicles aren't exactly graceful-looking.


Argo has been working on its self-driving car platform for a while now alongside its partners and Volkswagen, and in that time, it's made some decent progress. Now it's ready to move to the next level, and to do that, it's created an updated suite of hardware, Argo announced Friday.

This hardware's claim to fame is that it's much closer to "automotive-grade," which, according to Argo's release, means that it's "hardware built to withstand extreme thermal conditions and maintain structural integrity over time," and it can be manufactured in volume. How is this different from Argo's previous tech?

To start with, the company has condensed its lidar system into a single unit with a longer visual range. The single unit can better handle high operating temperatures thanks to built-in fans and can even keep itself clean with built-in water jets. Next, Argo upgraded its radar system by nearly doubling its range, which, when paired with the upgraded lidar, allows the vehicles to operate safely at higher speeds.


There are tons of improvements in this next generation of Argo hardware.


Argo also went all-in on developing the camera system that its test vehicles will be using. Both near-field and far-field high-definition cameras are in use here, with bespoke image sensors that can better handle high-dynamic-range lighting situations. Argo also added three microphones to the sensor package, allowing vehicles to listen for emergency vehicle sirens and react to them even before they're in visual range for the other sensors.

To deal with all this sensor input, Argo is employing two self-driving computer systems, with the second one acting as a redundant unit in case the first one fails. The first computer is called the Autonomous Vehicle System and handles the bulk of the vehicle's driving tasks. The second computer is called the Complementary Autonomous Vehicle System, and in addition to being a backup, it helps carry some of the load of the collision avoidance systems.

It's difficult to say how effective this new hardware will be in comparison with tech from other self-driving developers like Waymo or Cruise, but given Argo's partnerships with OEMs and its success up to this point, it is likely to at least be comparable.

Argo AI's third-generation self-driving car doesn't look too different

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Watch this: Join us for a ride in Ford's prototype self-driving car

Correction, Feb. 3: Removed reference to the aesthetic quality of the Argo system; it's not meant for public consumption and this hardware is being fitted only to development vehicles.