The big picture: You may not have heard of it, but the small Pittsburg-based company was founded by former Uber engineers and has big ambitions for the future of self-driving technology, now fueled by both Volkswagen and Ford. The next step is to attract a similar high profile investment from Asia, which would further extend the company’s global reach.
Argo AI has announced Volkswagen is making a widely anticipated commitment to invest $2.6 billion into its technological incubator, building on top of an already eye-watering $1 billion one made by Ford in 2017. The investment includes $1 billion in cash, as well as $1.6 billion worth of resources from VW’s Autonomous Intelligent Driving Group, which is now an effective part of Argo AI.
The deal is a boon for the Pittsburgh-based startup, which is going to be valued at over $7 billion as soon as the paperwork goes through, placing it among the stars in the autonomous vehicles sector.
To put things in context, Ford and Volkswagen have been working together since the start of 2019 to build pickup trucks and vans, and sharing know-how on electric vehicles as well as other mobility services like e-Bikes. Today’s announcement is an even bigger bet that highlights just how much potential automakers see in autonomous cars, which are notoriously difficult to get right.
Argo AI has been testing its tech with Ford in a number of major U.S. cities such as Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Washington, DC. Argo CEO Bryan Salesky believes the company is in a unique position to be the first with “definitive deployment plans in both the U.S. and Europe,” especially now that is has added 200 engineers from VW’s self-driving unit to accelerate its efforts.
The race for autonomous car technology has accelerated in recent years, with companies such as Tesla, Uber, Waymo and even Apple jumping into the boat.
It’s worth noting that it’s still early days, with leaking trade secrets and a recent win in a fight over car connectivity rules in the E.U. as prime examples of the challenges these companies face.
Salesky further says that “while technology development remains a core mission for Argo, we are equally committed to operating as a responsible and ethical partner in those communities where we test”. BMW, Audi and silicon giants such as Intel are pushing the industry to focus more on safety and less on cutting corners, but time will tell if Argo is truly committed to these standards.