Self-Driving

4 Things the Argo AI investment by Ford and VW means for the future of autonomous cars

Ford and Volkswagen are spending billions to develop autonomous vehicle technology.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

There are currently no self-driving cars for sale in the U.S., despite what you may read in the headlines. In a recent post on Medium, John Lawler, CEO, Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, and Ford Motor Company Vice President, Mobility Partnerships, spelled out how the Volkswagen and Ford investments into Argo AI will help move the ball when it comes to the future of self-driving and autonomous vehicle technology.

A deal between Volkswagen, Ford, and Argo AI was announced last year and valued at $7 billion. As part of the partnership agreement, Volkswagen committed to investing $1 billion in funding and contributing its $1.6 billion Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID) company, which includes more than 200 employees – most of whom have been developing self-driving technology for the Volkswagen Group.

Ford Argo AI Austin Ford has already invested billions in the technology company.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Additionally, Volkswagen is set to purchase Argo AI shares from Ford for $500 million over three years (part of a larger $1 billion cash commitment to Argo AI).

With the money, Ford and Volkswagen have an equal stake in Argo AI.

It helps with the cost.

Volkswagen is slightly flusher with cash than Ford at the moment but the investment by both companies means that they won't be independently shelling out to research, develop, build, and test phases of the technology as it develops.

Ford has committed to spending more than $4 billion through 2023 on the development of self-driving tech. Because there are currently no self-driving cars on the road today, each dollar spent is an investment in the possibility of a future. That's not a quantifiable amount of ROI (return on investment) so joining together should help soothe investor insecurity regarding the spend.

The partnership makes scalable deployment possible.

Argo AI is able to use the partnership to make plans to scale up the roll out of its technology. Ford and Volkswagen sell vehicles worldwide giving an instant global presence to the technology in the marketplace, on some of the most popular models sold.

Having a proper and dependable scalable infrastructure in place allows for predictability of costs. This, in turn, allows for more informed decision making due to more predictable economic conditions, which informs everything from the number of staff working on the technology to the types and brands of equipment used in the process.

Ford and Volkswagen remain independent

Though the companies are both all in on this partnership, they're still committed to their own company branding, vehicle development, and technology rollout plans. Any technology developed by the company would likely need to work its way into the lineup rather than create a whole new joint product line shared by Ford and Volkswagen.

This also means that the companies are dedicated to competition. Lawler writes, "Ford will remain independent and fiercely competitive in building its own self-driving service. Sharing the development costs with Volkswagen doesn't mean Ford is reducing its overall spend in the autonomous vehicle space. Instead, we are reallocating the money toward our unique customer experience including transportation as a service software development and fleet operations. We believe building the best overall customer experience will help differentiate us from our competitors in the self-driving space."

Argo AI remains committed

While the focus is on Ford and Volkswagen's involvement, Argo AI hasn't lost sight of their mission. When the investment news was made public last July, the company said that it was focused on delivering a SAE Level 4-capable SDS to be applied for ride sharing and goods delivery services in dense urban areas.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

WWE logos are shown on screens before a WWE news conference at T-Mobile Arena on October 11, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

They're used to taking it to the mat, but this autumn, the stars of the WWE will be taking to the internet as part of a partnership with Hyundai to produce a 10-episode video series that features storytelling centered around the passion for enriching people's lives. "Drive For Better" will appear on WWE's digital platforms throughout the second half of the year.

"As an official sponsor of WWE, we are excited to be working together to share the personal stories of the Superstars and help put a smile on people's faces," said Angela Zepeda, CMO, Hyundai Motor America. "We both believe everyone deserves better and this series is representative of that."

"WWE and Hyundai's shared passion for supporting local communities truly makes this a rewarding partnership," said John Brody, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Sales & Partnerships, WWE. "We are extremely grateful to Hyundai for their commitment and hope this series will inspire people across the country at a time when it's needed most."

The first episode of the series features WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns and his recent virtual visit with patients at the Children's Hospital of Orange County. It debuted in July and is posted on WWE's digital platforms and the Superstars' social media channels along with other episodes in the series.

The series is part of a larger partnership between Hyundai and WWE. The two brands have delivered custom content integrations across WWE's global media platforms throughout 2020. Hyundai is also the Co-Presenting Partner of WWE Clash of Champions on Sunday, September 27 and will receive weekly exposure in Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown programming throughout the month of September.

In addition to the episodic programming, the partnership will work to promote Hyundai Hope On Wheels during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Hyundai Hope on Wheels is a charitable organization that recently provided millions of dollars in grants to aid with COVID-19 testing.

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Ford has listened and will be making its Bronco available with a manual transmission and the Sasquatch Package.

Photo courtesy of Twitter/@MrLevine

It's safe to say that enthusiasm for the 2021 Ford Bronco is high. The voices of the enthusiasts are loud too. So loud, that the powers that be at Ford Motor Company headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan heard them when they shouted all over social media that they wanted the Bronco to be available with a manual transmission and the Sasquatch Package - a combination not announced at the product's debut.

"The Bronco community spoke and we heard them," said Mark Grueber, Ford Bronco consumer marketing manager. "Our team moved quickly to add Sasquatch with a manual transmission – another example of our focus on giving customers the best possible off-road vehicles and accessories that we can."

2021 Ford Bronco four-door Many orders have already been placed for the 2021 Bronco.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Previously, the Sasquatch Package was only available on select trim levels of the two- and four-door Bronco with the available 10-speed automatic transmission.

The Sasquatch Package gives the model 35-inch Goodyear mud-terrain tires that are mounted to 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels, Dana front and rear electronic locking axles with 4.7:1 final drive ratio, and a high-clearance suspension with a nearly two-inch wider track, position-sensitive Bilstein shocks, and wider fender flares.

The change makes the Bronco the only 4x4 with a seven-speed manual and 35-inch off-road tires in its class, giving it one more boasting point in the Bronco vs. Wrangler throwdown for off-road supremacy.

The Sasquatch Package will now be available across the Ford Bronco lineup including the Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outerbanks, and Badlands grades. It is standard on the Bronco Wildtrak and First Edition models. Exterior paint job options vary by trim level.

"Capability is always a priority, and pairing Sasquatch with a manual transmission and available advanced 4x4 system gives it a maximum crawl ratio of 94.75:1, providing even more off-road capability across the line-up," said Dave Pericak, Ford icons global director.

The manual transmission with Sasquatch package is targeted to be available in late 2021. But, you may have to wait 15 months to get yours.

Earlier this year, AutomotiveMap rode in a Bronco with a manual transmission as well as the Bronco Sport.

The Bronco build and price module on Ford.com will go live in October. How can you get a deal on your preferred model? There's one thing you need to know.

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