Argo AI has obtained a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to test its driverless cars in the city. California is the third market where Argo AI is testing its tech and it plans to expand tests to Washington, D.C. in the coming months.
The Pittsburgh-based startup, founded by former executives on self-driving teams at Google and Uber, has a close relationship with Ford. The latter said it would invest $1 billion in the startup over the next five years to help them achieve their plans to launch a self-driving taxi and delivery service in 2021.
“With Argo AI’s agility and Ford’s scale we’re combining the benefits of a technology startup with the experience and discipline we have at Ford,” Mark Fields, CEO of Ford Motor Company, said when the news was announced.
Although Ford is a major backer, Argo AI is an independent company and has seats on its board. That said, at the moment, Ford is Argo AI’s only customer. Argo AI is actively looking for strategic partners, as it might help with speeding development and deployment, benefiting both the startup as well as its benefactors. “It’s something that we’re actively pursuing, but it needs to be strategic,” Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky said. However, “The first priority is to get the initial Ford product out the door, but when opportunities present themselves, let’s look at the next strategic OEM,” he added.
At the same time, Ford earmarked $4 billion in July for a new unit, named Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, to house its self-driving vehicle – operations, research, engineering, integration and everything in between. Ford also reportedly shook hands with Volkswagen and Postmates to help realize its goal of bringing autonomous vehicles to the market as quickly as possible.