While car manufacturers and tech giants have been heralding the advent of self-driving cars for years, the technology is still very much in the development stage. The cost and expertise needed to develop autonomous vehicles are steep, which is why carmakers have been forging alliances to work on the technology together. Earlier this year, Daimler and BMW announced a partnership to focus on automated driving technology. More recently, Ford and Volkswagen have joined up for the same goal.
Ford and Volkswagen will be using technology from Pittsburgh startup Argo AI to create ride-sharing services that may rival Uber’s. They plan to launch these services as early as 2021, though because the technology still has a long way to go, we won’t be seeing its widespread use any time soon. Autonomous driving is a lot more complicated than installing some sensors and artificial intelligence — because human behavior is so unpredictable, technology has to be able to anticipate what pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers can do.
In June of this year, Ford expanded on-road testing of the third-generation autonomous vehicle, a modified version of one of the brand’s best-selling vehicles, the Ford Fusion Hybrid. These self-driving cars have been deployed in Dearborn, Michigan (where Ford’s headquarters is located), Pittsburgh, Palo Alto, Miami, Washington DC, and most recently, Detroit. Peter Rander, the president of Argo AI, explained in an official release that exposure to each city’s unique infrastructure will make the self-driving system smarter.
Behind The Partnership
Before partnering with Ford, Volkswagen had been working on self-driving technology in Munich, the US West Coast, and China. The Volkswagen Group plans to invest about EUR 44 billion into the development of electric self-driving cars by 2023, and partnership plays a pivotal role in their plans. Apart from this alliance with Ford, Volkswagen has also partnered with Chinese tech company Apollo, which specializes in autonomous driving. Volkswagen has also joined Mobileye and Champion Motors to develop the first ride-hailing service with self-driving cars in Israel.
Ford president and CEO Jim Hackett maintains that Ford and Volkswagen will remain independent and competitive, but their partnership with Argo AI will allow them to scale their expertise and deliver technology faster. The deal, which is still subject to regulatory approval, will see Ford and Volkswagen having equal stakes in Argo AI, and between the two companies, they would own the majority stake. Once the deal has been finalized, Argo AI will be worth %7 billion, and the platform will have the largest geographical deployment potential of any self-driving technology ever.