Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) is planning to invest $1 billion in a Silicon Valley artificial intelligence startup.
The investments in Argo AI will be made over five years and the focus will be on autonomous vehicle technology, The New York Times reported. In exchange for the capital Argo will develop the technology exclusively for Ford at first.
Argo brings some big brain power to AI car battle it is led by veterans of Uber and Alphabet’s self-driving car push. A lot of the effort will be based in Pittsburgh where Uber’s self-driving car effort is centered. Carnegie Mellon University; the home of Libartus the world’s smartest AI, is located in Pittsburgh making the city a hub for machine learning research.
Ford’s Self Driving Car Push Heats up
The major purpose of Argo AI will be to lure more brainpower to work for Ford. Ford will be the majority shareholder in the venture but engineers and robotics experts will get shares in the venture.
Ford has been making a major push into autonomous vehicle technology. Its CEO Mark Fields even told reporters that he wants to put the first true self-driving car on the road by 2021, that’s just four years away.
To achieve that goal Ford needs all the help it can get, hence the formation of Argo AI. The startup is the only latest move in that direction by Ford. The company has also acquired the Israeli machine-learning company SAIPS, 3-D mapping firm Civil Maps and a ride-sharing solution called Chariot over the past six months.
Argo is moving full speed ahead in its plans to make fields vision a reality. Argo cofounder Bryan Salesky told The Times that he intends to hire 200 people by the end of the year.
In addition to offices in San Francisco and Pittsburgh, Argo plans an office in Southern Michigan close to Ford headquarters in Dearborn and the company’s factories. Ford has also opened offices in Silicon Valley and is remaking its facilities in Dearborn into a Silicon Valley style campus, The Times reported.
This means that Ford is no longer just a carmaker, it is a technology company. Instead of just building vehicles Ford is developing and deploying new technologies. That might give it an edge in a dramatically changing auto industry.