Ford spending $1 billion on self-driving artificial intelligence

Ford announced an investment in artificial-intelligence company Argo AI to foster development of its self-driving car technology.

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Ford testing self-driving cars at MCity in Michigan

Ford has already been testing self-driving car technology.

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Ford announced today a $1 billion investment in machine-learning startup Argo AI. Through the agreement, Argo AI will work exclusively for Ford on the software brains to enable self-driving.

Ford previously announced it will offer a self-driving car by 2021, although it would likely be limited to urban environments and be used by ride-hailing services as a kind of robo-taxi.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Argo AI is a new company dedicated to developing a software system to guide self-driving cars. CEO Bryan Salesky said of the investment that it would allow Argo AI to recruit the kind of talent needed to develop these systems.

Ford CEO Mark Fields said, "For accounting purposes, Argo AI will be a subsidiary of Ford, but have a lot of independence. Its sole focus over the next five years will be developing self-driving software for Ford vehicles."

Self-driving, or autonomous, cars use sensors, GPS and onboard computing power to recognize their environments and take passengers to destinations. Almost every major automaker is developing this technology, while the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has been supporting it as a means of reducing the 32,500 fatalities that occur on US roads every year.

Ford Chief Technical Officer Raj Nair pointed out that Ford will concentrate on building the hardware platform, the physical car, and use its expertise to develop toward large-scale manufacturing. Argo AI will focus on the software side.

Fields also said that Argo AI will look into licensing its technology to other automakers at a later date.

Ford and Argo AI announce investment

Ford and Argo AI announce an investment in self-driving cars. From right to left, Argo AI's Peter Rander and Bryan Salesky, and Ford's Mark Fields and Raj Nair.

Wayne Cunningham/Roadshow
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