Ford motor co. is planning to invest about $1 billion in a tech startup Argo AI, for helping the Detroit automaker reach its goal of producing a self-driving vehicle for commercial ridesharing fleets by 2021, announced by the Company.
The investment in Pittsburg-based Argo AI, founded by former executives on self-driving teams at Google and Uber, will make Ford the company's largest shareholder.
Ford Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields said the investment is in line with previous announcements on planned capital expenditures.
Argo AI, it centers on artificial intelligence and robotics, helps in building what Ford calls its virtual driver system at the heart of the fully autonomous car Ford said last year it would develop by 2021.
With Argo AI's quickness and Ford's scale we're combining the benefits of a technology startup with the experience and discipline we have at Ford, Fields said at a press conference.
The technology could be licensed to other companies as well once it is developed for Ford, said by the executives.
The majority of equity would be retained with the Ford and the potential for an equity stake as Argo AI hires 200 more employees will be an advantage in recruiting talent as told by the executives.
They have the opportunity to run it pretty independently with a board, but because it is a separate company or subsidiary, it has the opportunity to go out and recruit with competitive compensation packages and equity.
Until now, Ford's investments in future transportation technology have been relatively modest, compared with those of General Motors Co and others. One of Ford's largest such investments in the past year was $75 million to buy a minority stake in Velodyne, a manufacturer of laser-based lidar sensing systems for self-driving cars.
A million dollar bet was made by the Rival GM with its acquisition of Silicon Valley self-driving startup Cruise Automation. GM also invested $500 million to buy a 9-percent stake in San Francisco-based ride services firm Lyft, a competitor to Uber.