Ford might even eventually license this tech to other companies.

Ford is showing that its serious about the future of autonomous motoring by investing $1 billion over the next five years into robotics and artificial intelligence startup Argo AI. The stake makes the Blue Oval the company’s largest shareholder, and there are plans to integrate employees from Ford’s self-driving vehicle team into the newly acquired firm.

Argo’s primary goal will be to create the artificial intelligence software platform that will control Ford’s future fully autonomous vehicles. The Blue Oval will aim to bring the first of those models to market in 2021. It’ll also possibly license this tech out to other companies in the future.

Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle

“This open collaboration is unlike any other partnership – allowing us to benefit from combining the speed of a startup with Ford’s strengths in scaling technology, systems integration and vehicle design,” Raj Nair, Ford’s Global Product Development boss, said.

The investment in Argo is part of Ford’s push to become a mobility company. Rather than simply building and selling vehicles, the company actually wants to run the networks using the models. In the future this could mean that Ford would take on Uber with a ride-hailing service or expand its ride-sharing options.

Ford premiered the latest iteration of its autonomous Fusion at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. By incorporating better lidar units, the vehicle can monitor objects up to 600 yards (549 meters) away. Roof-mounted cameras and radar generate even more information about the model’s surroundings. Currently, Ford places a computer in the trunk that processes a terabyte of data every hour from all of these sources.

The firm’s plan is to launch its fully autonomous model in 2021 initially as only for its ride-hailing service. The hybrid vehicle wouldn’t have a steering wheel or pedals because a human wouldn’t ever need to take control. Sales to customers would then begin in 2025.

Source: Ford via Automotive News

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