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

 
 

Ford has revealed the silhouettes of the three models in the Bronco family.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford has made it official. Not only will we see the Ford Bronco for the first time next Monday night, we'll see three Ford Broncos. That's right, the automaker is making two- and four-door versions of the heralded 4x4 SUV as well as the more lifestyle-focused Bronco Sport.

From the images Ford released, it's apparent that the two-door Bronco delivers a different flavor than the four-door, rather than just being a shortened model. The two-door 2021 Ford Bronco is shown without its two front doors and what appears to be a soft top style roof. Its blunt front end and silhouette are reminiscent of the original Bronco.

2021 Ford Bronco family Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The four-door model shown is what most Americans likely think of as the traditional Bronco. It is squared off and upright with flared fenders, a spare wheel out back, hard top, and a blunt front smiler to the two-door version.

We've already seen the headlights and sides of the Bronco as part of Instagram teasers the company released last week.

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport sits on the same platform as the 2020 Ford Escape. Its interior is designed with a rugged yet comfortable lifestyle in mind. Because of its production mate, the Bronco Sport is likely to not be as capable as the two- or four-door Bronco.

With these images, Ford makes it clear that Bronco has the Jeep Wrangler firmly in its sights. While the two-door Wrangler and four-door Wrangler Sahara match up size-wise with the Bronco, the Bronco Sport is more the size of the Jeep Cherokee. Whether or not there is enough room in America's hearts for all the models remains to be seen.

The debut of the Bronco is slated for July 13 at 8 p.m. Click here to see all the ways to watch it alongside AutomotiveMap. Then, plan on coming back to AutomotiveMap for full model coverage, just like we did with redesigned 2021 Ford F-150 two weeks ago.

Bronco fans can reserve their Bronco model for $100 each, starting Monday, July 13 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

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Ford will host four Bronco Roadeos in 2021.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The 2021 Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport are meant to be capable off-roaders. Brand and off-roading enthusiasts will be invited to attend a series of new Jeep Jamboree-like events called Bronco Off-Roadeos, starting next year.

There will be four Off-Roadeos, each one leveraging the built-in brand identity of the SUV to attract attendees for test their skills on what Ford calls "an outdoor adventure playground for all skill levels" with experiences designed "to build confidence and inspired Bronco owners to get out in the wild for years to come."

Ford Bronco Off-Roadeo badge Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford's use of "the wild" isn't a coincidence. The company has launched a Built Wild brand identity as part of the Bronco and Bronco Sport launch.

The company will also use the independently-owned Bronco Nation online community to connect with fans.

Additionally, the company will be launching a new line of Bronco merchandise. The long list of Bronco products includes everything from gear to remote control cars. Ford-licensed Bronco merchandise is available at Amazon.com/fordbronco.

A portion of Bronco merchandise proceeds will be donated to the Bronco brand's stewardship efforts.

The 2021 Ford Bronco and Bronco Sport will be unveiled on July 13, 2020. Click here to learn more about how to watch the debut from the comfort of your own home.

In the meantime, you can get excited about the SUV by listening to the Bronco playlist on Spotify, learning more about the Built Wild credentials, and learning about the two (yes, not one, but two) Broncos O.J. Simpson made famous.

If you're thinking of buying a Bronco, you can reserve your place in line starting July 13. Here's how to get a spot.

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