Ford has announced a $1 billion investment over the next five years in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company, to develop a virtual driver system for the automaker’s autonomous vehicle coming in 2021.
Ford Motor Company has announced it is investing $1 billion during the next five years in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company, to develop a virtual driver system for the automaker’s autonomous vehicle coming in 2021 – and for potential license to other companies.
Founded by former Google and Uber leaders, Argo AI is bringing together some of the most experienced roboticists and engineers working in autonomy from inside and outside of Ford. The team of experts in robotics and artificial intelligence is led by Argo AI founders Bryan Salesky, company CEO, and Peter Rander, company COO. Both are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and former leaders on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively.
“The next decade will be defined by the automation of the automobile, and autonomous vehicles will have as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago,” said Ford President and CEO Mark Fields. “As Ford expands to be an auto and a mobility company, we believe that investing in Argo AI will create significant value for our shareholders by strengthening Ford’s leadership in bringing self-driving vehicles to market in the near term and by creating technology that could be licensed to others in the future.”
The current team developing Ford’s virtual driver system – the machine-learning software that acts as the brain of autonomous vehicles – will be combined with the robotics talent and expertise of Argo AI. This innovative partnership will work to deliver the virtual driver system for Ford’s SAE level 4 self-driving vehicles.
Ford will continue to lead on development of its purpose-built autonomous vehicle hardware platform, as well as on systems integration, manufacturing, exterior and interior design, and regulatory policy management.
Argo AI will join forces with Ford’s autonomous vehicle software development effort to strengthen the commercialization of self-driving vehicles. Argo AI’s agility and Ford’s scale uniquely combine the benefits of a technology startup with the experience and discipline of the automaker’s industry-leading autonomous vehicle development program.
“We are at an inflection point in using artificial intelligence in a wide range of applications, and the successful deployment of self-driving cars will fundamentally change how people and goods move,” said Salesky. “We are energized by Ford’s commitment and vision for the future of mobility, and we believe this partnership will enable self-driving cars to be commercialized and deployed at scale to extend affordable mobility to all.”
The collaboration supports Ford’s intent to have a fully autonomous, SAE level 4-capable vehicle for commercial application in mobility services in 2021.
“Working together with Argo AI gives Ford a distinct competitive advantage at the intersection of the automotive and technology industries,” said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer. “This open collaboration is unlike any other partnership – allowing us to benefit from combining the speed of a startup with Ford’s strengths in scaling technology, systems integration and vehicle design.”
Also complementing the relationship will be Ford Smart Mobility LLC, which will lead on the commercialization strategy for Ford’s self-driving vehicles. This includes choices for using autonomous vehicles to move goods and people, such as ride sharing, ride hailing or package delivery fleets.
Ford will be the majority stakeholder in Argo AI. Importantly, Argo AI has been structured to operate with substantial independence. Its employees will have significant equity participation in the company, enabling them to share in its success. Argo AI’s board will have five members: Nair; John Casesa, Ford group vice president, Global Strategy; Salesky; Rander; and an independent director.
The $1 billion investment in Argo AI will be made over five years and is consistent with the autonomous vehicle capital allocation plan shared last September as part of Ford Investor Day.
By the end of this year, Argo AI expects to have more than 200 team members, based in the company’s Pittsburgh headquarters and at major sites in Southeastern Michigan and the Bay Area of California.
Argo AI’s initial focus will be to support Ford’s autonomous vehicle development and production. In the future, Argo AI could license its technology to other companies and sectors looking for autonomous capability.
Jaguar charges South Africa
Jaguar, in partnership with electric vehicle charging authority GridCars, has laid the foundation for the future of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in South Africa with 82 new public charging stations in the country’s major hubs and along frequently-travelled holiday routes.
The R30-million infrastructure investment will make day-to-day travel, as well as longer day trips and even very long journeys possible for owners of electric vehicles, such as the soon to be introduced Jaguar I-PACE. With a range of up to 470km depending on driving style and conditions on a single charge, an I-PACE will comfortably fit into most drivers’ lifestyles, whether it’s commuting to and from work on a daily basis, or travelling the long distances required for inter-city holiday destinations.
In addition to the publicly available charging stations to be installed in customer parking areas at every Jaguar Land Rover retailer in South Africa, a total of 30 public charging stations will be erected at various points of convenience, such as shopping centres, in the country’s major hubs including Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Bloemfontein.
South Africa’s city centres will now also be connected by the Jaguar Powerway – a series of 22 charging stations along the N3 between Gauteng and Durban and the N1 between Gauteng and Cape Town. Cape Town will also be connected to the Garden Route with a series of charging stations along the N2 all the way to East London.
Richard Gouverneur, Managing Director of Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and sub-Sahara Africa said:“As Jaguar we are proud to be setting the pace for the new generation of electric vehicles in South Africa. The launch of the Jaguar Powerway demonstrates our commitment to electrification technology and the future of mobility in our market. This new network provides peace of mind to our Jaguar I-PACE customers who can now experience more of their world with less range restrictions.”
The majority of charging stations on the public network will be 60kWh fast chargers, meaning 100km of range will take around 20 minutes for Jaguar I-PACE owners. A charge from 0 to 80% will take around 72 minutes.
Every charging station will also be equipped with a 22kWh AC fast charger to accommodate plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs). The AC standard Type 2 socket will allow charging of all EVs currently available in South Africa. The DC charger is fitted with the CCS DC type socket used by the vast majority of EVs in SA.
Jaguar Land Rover owners will use an RFID card to activate the charging station and manage electricity billing to the card. Cards can be credited with simple EFT payments, much like cellphone airtime top-ups. Charging station electricity rates will also be discounted by 25% for all Jaguar Land Rover EV or PHEV owners.
Like petrol, the price of electricity fluctuates, but for now the rate for 1kWh on the card will be between R3 and R3.50 depending where in South Africa it’s redeemed. With a 90kWh battery, a full recharge in an I-PACE will cost between R270 and R315 – a fraction of the fueling costs of conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
The entire Jaguar charging grid and Powerway is expected to be operational by the end of November, 2018. The Jaguar I-PACE will be available in South Africa in the first quarter of 2019.
Merc challenges students to pitch digital innovation
Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) has partnered with the LaunchLab to offer a pitching opportunity to students and professionals in South Africa.
The Mercedes-Benz South Africa Ideas Challenge will target interested students and professionals to pitch their innovative ideas around a set of challenges, tailor-made to advance manufacturing as well as relevant industry topics, as identified by Mercedes-Benz South Africa. The challenge spans various focus areas – ranging from big data and machine learning for manufacturing, the digitisation of logistics and production, machine learning, Industry 4.0 and many more.
The two partners are well-matched to create this unique opportunity for innovative South African talent.
Mercedes-Benz South Africa has a proud history and heritage in South Africa spanning more than six decades. Being part of the global Daimler network, a company with a track record in innovation and pioneering spirit of over a century, will offer the successful participants access to expert input and guidance.
The LaunchLab, a cutting edge, mixed-use business incubator based at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape, will facilitate the challenge which will run from August to November 2018. LaunchLab’s mission is to facilitate valuable connections between strategic partners and startups in order for Africa to develop into an entrepreneurial ecosystem that accelerates entrepreneurs to a new level.
The Ideas Programme is intended primarily for students and young professionals to validate their innovative ideas and concepts in the manufacturing environment. At the end of the process successful participants from the students and professionals, stand the chance to win various prizes and if selected have the opportunity to work on a proof of concept with Mercedes- Benz South Africa.
To book for this information seminar, visit https://launchlab.co.za/ideas2
Submission requirements: Participants should submit an entry form with a 3-minute video explaining their business idea on the LaunchLab website:
The deadline for submissions is 28 September 2018, thereafter, a shortlist of candidates will participate in an ideas bootcamp to further refine and validate their ideas. A group of finalists will then be selected and will then in November have the opportunity to present their ideas to Mercedes-Benz South Africa decision makers.
LaunchLab’s terms and conditions apply, and are available for download here:
“MBSA has partnered with the LaunchLab as part of our continuing efforts to contribute to youth development, the economic growth and sustainability of the country as a whole. The areas that the challenge is focusing on are key to our continued growth and success as we operate in a highly competitive space,” says Andreas Engling, CEO and Executive Director Manufacturing, Mercedes-Benz South Africa.
“The LaunchLab is very excited to have joined hands once again with Mercedes-Benz South Africa on the Ideas Challenge. This is another example of a well-known multinational company seeing the value of engaging with the start-up ecosystem and we are very pleased to be able to facilitate the interaction between these two groups to leverage the strengths of both, for mutual benefit. This is an awesome opportunity for our local entrepreneurs,” says Philip Marais, CEO of the LaunchLab.
Throughout the challenge, progress and news will be shared online and on social media platforms, using the hashtag #LLIdeas2018.