Argo AI, the self-driving start-up tightly aligned with Ford Motor, completed an expected tie-up with Volkswagen involving a $2.6 billion (Dh9.54bn) investment from the German car maker.
VW’s investment includes a $1bn cash infusion and the folding of its $1.6bn Autonomous Intelligent Driving unit into Argo. It is part of a broader alliance between VW and Ford to jointly develop autonomous and electric vehicles, a partnership first announced last July. The deal vaults the world’s first and sixth largest automakers into the top ranks of a race to deploy fully self-driving cars, along with Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motors’ Cruise.
With the addition of VW’s autonomous unit, Argo will have a global workforce of more than 1,000 and a new European outpost in Munich, where it will test its driver-less technology, Bryan Salesky, the start-up’s chief executive, wrote in a blog.
“This news not only solidifies our well-capitalised position, but differentiates us as the only self-driving technology platform company with partnerships and commercial agreements for deployment across the US and Europe,” Mr Salesky wrote. “Our mission is built on the importance of developing trust in self-driving technology.”
The coronavirus outbreak has set back Ford’s plan to launch robo-taxis and driver-less delivery pods next year. The car maker now says it will start using Argo’s technology in 2022 so that it has more time to study the pandemic’s impact on consumer attitudes toward self-driving and shared vehicles.
“While our companies are sharing Argo AI’s technology development costs, Ford will remain independent and fiercely competitive,” John Lawler, chief executive of Ford’s autonomous-vehicle unit, wrote in a separate blog post. “Sharing the development costs with Volkswagen doesn’t mean Ford is reducing its overall spend in the autonomous-vehicle space. Instead, we are reallocating the money toward our unique customer experience.”