The gold rush for autonomous vehicle technology is in full surge.
Ford is making a $1 billion bet on artificial intelligence to produce its first driverless vehicle by 2021.
The automaker announced last week it will spend $1 billion over five years with Argo, an artificial intelligence company based in Pittsburgh. The company also has offices in the Bay Area and Michigan and is looking to expand to 200 employees this year.
Argo posted on social media Friday that the investment will push it to a goal of a fully autonomous Ford vehicle in 2021. The automaker becomes the majority stakeholder in the startup.
“We founded Argo AI to tackle one of the most challenging applications in computer science, robotics and artificial intelligence — self-driving vehicles,” the company wrote. “While technology exists today to augment the human driver and automate the driving task up to a certain level of capability, replacing the human driver remains an extremely complex challenge.”
Ford has already invested heavily in Silicon Valley. The company that brought the world the Model T and Mustang opened up the Ford Smart Mobility center last year in Palo Alto.
GM last year spent $1 billion on Cruise Automation of San Francisco to get ahead of the autonomous gold-rush.
Tesla continues to accumulate miles of driver-assist data around the globe with its Autopilot system, hoping to hone in on a vehicle capable of full autonomy. The Palo Alto company lost the leader of its Autopilot group in January. The former Tesla executive is expected to team up with a top Google engineer to form a new venture to — wait for it — develop another autonomous driving system.
Photo: Ford Motor’s next-generation Fusion Hybrid autonomous development vehicle. (Courtesy of Ford Motor)