Ford Invests $1 Billion in Months-Old AI Startup

February 10, 2017 at 3:50 PM

Ford Motor Co. plans to invest $1 billion over five years in Argo AI, a startup launched a few months ago in Pittsburgh, Pa., by two pioneers in artificial intelligence.

The new company will develop the virtual driver system for Ford’s future autonomous vehicle program. The carmaker has said it will introduce a fully self-driving vehicle for commercial applications in 2021.

The so-called “level 4” vehicle will be capable of coping with almost any operating conditions that a human driver could handle. Applications are likely to include driverless package delivery, ride-sharing and ride-hailing services.

Argo AI co-founders CEO Bryan Salesky and Chief Operating Officer Peter Rander formerly worked on the autonomous vehicle programs at Google and Uber, respectively. Both are alumni of the Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center.

The funding deal makes Ford a major shareholder in the Argo AI. The company will operate as a Ford subsidiary but with considerable independence that include equity in the enterprise for its engineers. The enterprise expects to have about 200 employees by the end of 2017. The company expects to operate from Pittsburgh, southeast Michigan and the San Francisco Bay area.