Ford and Volkswagen are ending support for their joint autonomous driving robotaxi division, Argo AI, after investing $3.6 billion.
Catherine Johnsmeyer, an Argo spokeswoman, announced the closure and said that some of the remaining employees would be offered jobs at Ford or Volkswagen. Ford employees would be newly assigned to work on automated driver assist, a feature that helps drivers stay safe and sane in traffic but does not drive itself. While Volkswagen employees are committed to self-driving technology, the company plans to introduce a limited robotaxi service in Germany by 2025.
The announcement comes as Ford announced a calculated move to shift investments from Argo AI’s Level 4 advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to domestically developed L2+/L3 autonomous driving technology. Ford acknowledged that Argo AI has failed to attract new investors and will post a loss of $827 million on its investment in Argo AI after a non-cash pre-tax deficit of $2.7 billion.
Ford said that when it first invested in Argo AI in 2017, it expected to have commercially available Level 4 ADAS technology by 2021. “But times have changed, and Ford now has a huge opportunity to give time – the most valuable commodity in modern life – back to millions of customers while they’re in their vehicles,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s president and CEO.
“It is critical for Ford to develop great and differentiated L2 + and L3 applications that improve transportation safety.” He added that Argo has taught the company that “we will have a very long road” to a truly self-driving car. He estimated that $100 billion has been invested in the AV industry overall, “and yet no one has defined a profitable business model at scale.”
Ford has said it will prioritize safer technologies, while Volkswagen has said it will invest in features that allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel at times.
The sources for this piece include an article in Wired.