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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Ford just announced specs for the new hardcore off-roader.

Ford

After years of speculation over the Bronco's return, Ford finally pushed the revived SUV to market last year. The rumor mill immediately kicked back into action with speculation of a higher-powered Raptor version of the Bronco to match Ford's F-150 Raptor here in the U.S. We've seen teases and a short film on the SUV, but today, The Blue Oval announced specs for what will surely be a highly desirable new vehicle in 2022 and beyond.

2022 Ford Bronco Raptor The Bronco Raptor gets upgraded cooling and engine tuning to handle high-temperature operation.Ford

The Bronco Raptor gets an exclusive twin-turbo 3.0-liter EcoBoost V6 that makes 400 horsepower, which is a big improvement over the standard SUV's V6 that makes an already healthy 330 horsepower. Four-wheel drive and a ten-speed automatic gearbox are standard. Ford says the Raptor also comes with a new towing mode that allows a max tow rating of 4,500 pounds - a 1,000-pound improvement over the base Bronco. Trail Control, trail Turn Assist, and Trail One-Pedal driving are also present here.

The Raptor gets seven of the standard Bronco's G.O.A.T. (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain) driving modes, including a new Baja Mode that works with the engine's turbo system to reduce lag and improve performance during high-speed runs in desert temperatures. An active exhaust allows four selectable sound modes, including normal, sport, quiet, and Baja, and the Raptor's intercooler helps keep operating temperatures at reasonable levels when running in hot weather.

Using the Bronco's modular design, Ford gave the Raptor unique front and rear quarter panels, fender flares, and door appliqués. The new body components add 9.8 inches to the Raptor's width, and removable running boards help improve rock crawling abilities. Model-exclusive amber LED running lights accent the Raptor's front end, and Raptor logos set the hardcore model apart from its "lesser" counterpart.

2022 Ford Bronco Raptor Amber LEDs and special badging designate the much-upgraded Raptor model.Ford

Inside, the Bronco Raptor gets a 12-inch digital gauge cluster with configurable view for vehicle performance and other information. Black marine-grade vinyl seats and rubberized flooring are standard. Orange accents on the dash vents, door netting, and steering wheel help break up the all-black interior, and Ford offers a synthetic suede upholstery upgrade for buyers wanting a little more comfort with their capable off-roader. A 12-inch infotainment touchscreen and 360-degree camera system are also standard.

Bronco Raptor hopefuls can start placing orders in March, but be aware that there will be a wait involved for everyone. Ford says that the majority of 2022 Bronco Raptors will go to existing reservation holders based on their reservation timestamp. It's worth noting that many 2021 Bronco buyers are still waiting for the SUVs, which are being converted into 2022 orders, so the wait time for the Raptor could be severe for anyone without a standing reservation.

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Off-road performance truck

Shelby American announces new Ford F-150 Raptor

Shelby just announced the new truck, which has a starting price of more than $124,000.

Shelby American

The third-generation Ford F-150 Raptor is a true off-road menace, with a strong turbocharged V6, beefy tires and shocks, and a luxury-level interior. Most people would consider the truck overkill for all but the hardest-core off-road enthusiasts, but the wizards at Shelby American have other ideas. As it has done with Ford vehicles for years, Shelby gave the new Raptor a performance makeover, and the finished product is quite impressive.

Shelby F-150 Raptor There's no mistaking a Shelby-tuned Raptor. Shelby American

The F-150 Raptor is already a capable beast, but Shelby turns things up a few notches. Performance upgrades include a performance intake and high-flow filter, an aluminum intercooler, a tune that pushes power to more than 525 ponies and 610 pound-feet of torque, a Shelby exhaust, and a BDS lift kit. The Shelby Raptor rides on 18-inch wheels with 37-inch BFG KM3 Mud Terrain tires.

If you’re thinking Shelby slaps a few go-fast parts on the Raptor and calls it good, think again. The truck’s interior features embroidered custom leather upholstery and exclusive floor mats. A unique serial number plate is mounted in the dash. Shelby also fits billet racing pedals, carbon fiber accents, and deep tinted windows.

Outside, the Raptor gest several touches to let everyone know it’s not a standard Ford. A special Shelby hood with intake and extraction vents is standard, along with power side steps with rock sliders. A bevy of Shelby logos and badging grace the truck’s body, and both bumpers have been replaced with steel units to accommodate light bars and additional tow points.

Shelby F-150 Raptor Shelby fits performance parts and gives the truck a tune.Shelby American

If you’re hoping to be one of the insane few to own a Shelby Raptor, get your wallet ready. The truck’s base price starts at $124,820, which includes the MSRP of the truck itself. That said, it’s unclear how extreme demand and supply chain issues will impact Shelby’s ability to get new trucks to modify.

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