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Ford ends autonomous project: “profitable, fully autonomous vehicles at scale are a long way off”

Photo: Ford Media Centre

The Ford Motor Company’s project with autonomous vehicle company Argo AI is shutting down.

In its October 26 earnings report, Ford (a major investor in Argo AI) noted that the company is being wound down and that it will hire engineers from the start-up to expand and speed up development of autonomous driving assistance systems (ADAS).

In its Q3 earnings report, the section headed “Shifting Timelines, Priorities for ADAS at Scale” notes that “profitable, fully autonomous vehicles at scale are a long way off.

Ford says that it made a decision to refocus its self-driving capital spending from the Level 4 systems on which Argo was working (where the vehicles handles most driving operations) to Level 2+ (advanced driver assistance) and Level 3 (conditional automation) technology its developing in-house. It noted that Argo AI wasn’t able to attract new investors, and that it was taking a $2.7 billion non-cash, pretax impairment on its investment in the company, which led to it posting an $827 million net loss for Q3.

In 2017, when Ford invested in Argo AI and autonomous vehicles, the company anticipated being able to bring Level 4 ADAS technology broadly to market by 2021.

“But things have changed, and there’s a huge opportunity right now for Ford to give time – the most valuable commodity in modern life – back to millions of customers while they’re in their vehicles,” said President and CEO Jim Farley. “It’s mission-critical for Ford to develop great and differentiated L2+ and L3 applications that at the same time make transportation even safer.

“We’re optimistic about a future for L4 ADAS, but profitable, fully autonomous vehicles at scale are a long way off and we won’t necessarily have to create that technology ourselves.”

Farley said Ford will hire talented engineers from Argo AI as that company is wound down to expand and speed development of those opportunities.