VW and Ford finalise Argo AI self-driving venture

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Start-up will integrate its operation with Audi’s self-driving division to develop and commercialise future system.

Volkswagen and Ford have completed their $2.6 billion (AU $3.8 billion) investment in autonomous tech startup Argo AI, eleven months after it was announced.

The deal was finalised by executives from both companies on Monday, despite both taking a significant financial hit due to the ongoing pandemic.

A crucial part of the deal is Audi’s transfer of its Autonomous Intelligent Driving division, valued at $2.3bn, to Argo AI. The German maker’s Munich-based division will become Argo’s European hub, with its 200 employees and already developed technology integrated into it. It will be Argo’s fifth engineering centre and the only one outside of the US.

Prior to the crisis Ford intended to spend billions on its overall autonomous vehicle development, including starting a subsidiary firm for the commercial side of it.

Volkswagen will put forward just under $3.8bn in total, as well as purchasing shares from Ford over a three-year period. This increases the total valuation of Argo AI to more than $10.2bn.

The car makers claimed last year that Argo AI’s self-driving system is the first with commercial deployment plans for Europe and the US. It plans to deliver a Level 4-capable self-driving system for “ride sharing and goods delivery services in dense urban areas”.

Argo’s self-driving system is said to be the one with the most potential to scale rapidly and extensively, with the first commercial rollout scheduled for 2021. Road trials of its well-developed system in locations such as Washington, Palo Alto, Pittsburgh, Miami and Detroit have already begun.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett said last year: “While Ford and Volkswagen remain independent and fiercely competitive in the marketplace, teaming up and working with Argo AI on this important technology allows us to deliver unmatched capability, scale and geographic reach”.

Lawrence Allan

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