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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The new Tiguan sports an all-new front-end design.

Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Tiguan is an interesting compact SUV with a fun-to-drive personality and plenty of style. After 14 years on sale, the Tiguan is just in its second generation, but VW has given it a significant update for the 2022 model year that brings new tech, updated styling, and a refreshed interior.

2022 Volkswagen Tiguan The rear has been massaged with new badging and standard LED taillights. Volkswagen

The restyled Tiguan is available in four trim levels: S, SE, and SE R-Line Black. All models get a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 184 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive are standard, but VW's 4Motion all-wheel drive can be optioned in.

Styling updates are the big story for the 2022 Tiguan. The front end is entirely new and carries design cues from the larger Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport. LED headlights are now standard, and an illuminated light line is available for the SUV's grille. On the rear liftgate, the Tiguan model name lettering also mirrors that of the Atlas, with the name spelled out underneath the VW logo.

2022 Volkswagen Tiguan Most trims get an 8-inch touchscreen.Volkswagen

Inside, the Tiguan now comes standard with heated seats, while a heated steering wheel and ventilated seats are available. Cloth upholstery is standard, while mid-range trims get leatherette. The top SEL R-Line comes with leather and a perforated leather-wrapped sport steering wheel. Front-wheel drive models come standard with three rows of seating as well, making the Tiguan one of the more family-friendly vehicles in its class.

2022 Volkswagen Tiguan The top trim gets upscale leather upholstery.Volkswagen

The base Tiguan S comes with a 6.5-inch touchscreen running Volkswagen's excellent MIB 2 software, but all others get MIB 3 infotainment software running on a glass-covered 8.0-inch touchscreen. The automaker notes that it's a capacitive touch system, which functions more like a smartphone than other infotainment systems, which sometimes require pressure to register a touch input. All Tiguans get a digital gauge cluster with an 8-inch display, while the top SEL R-Line upgrades to a 10.25-inch configurable gauge cluster that offers full-screen navigation and other views.

Pricing for the 2022 Volkswagen Tiguan starts at $25,995 for the base S trim with front-wheel drive. Adding all-wheel drive pushes the prices to $27,495. All Tiguan models will see a $1,195 destination charge tacked on at the bottom line.

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Both the Jetta and Jetta GLI are refreshed for 2022.

Volkswagen

Volkswagen is busy in 2021. The automaker has a brand-new SUV in its lineup and is implementing tech updates for almost all of its vehicles. The venerable Jetta sedan is one of them, but along with new tech, the car receives a new engine and updated safety features for the 2022 model year.


2022 Volkswagen Jetta The Jetta GLI gets standard projector LED headlights.Volkswagen


The 2022 Jetta gets the new turbo-four that powers VW's freshman SUV, Taos. It's a 1.5-liter unit that makes 158 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It's paired with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. The Jetta GLI is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is available.

Both cars are based on VW's MQB platform, but the GLI gets additional go-fast chassis and handling components. Like its spiritual cousin, the Golf GTI, the Jetta GLI carries a VAQ electronically-controlled torque-sensing limited-slip differential. That extremely hyphenated component works with the car's XDS Cross Differential System and DCC adaptive dampers to help keep things tidy when the driver puts their right foot down.


2022 Volkswagen Jetta The Jetta comes standard with a digital gauge cluster.Volkswagen


Styling updates include new front and rear bumpers with a new grille and chrome trim pieces. The GLI features a signature red accent strip and a honeycomb lower fascia. The standard Jetta gets LED headlights and daytime running lights, while top Jetta trims and the Jetta GLI get projector LEDs.

New standard tech headlines the cars' interior updates and include a standard digital gauge cluster, measuring eight inches for the Jetta and ten inches for the Jetta GLI. The Digital Cockpit system can display maps, audio information, and other data from the car's infotainment system. Top Jetta trims and the Jetta GLI also come with VW's MIB3 infotainment software, which brings wireless charging and wireless app connectivity.


2022 Volkswagen Jetta New safety tech is available for the 2022 Jetta.Volkswagen


The Jetta's standard and available safety technologies also get an overhaul for 2022. Front assist, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alerts are now standard, while Volkswagen's IQ.DRIVE safety package is available for some cars and is standard for the GLI. The package includes a lane-keeping system, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, a semi-automated driving assistance system, and a semi-automated medical emergency vehicle assistance system.

Pricing details for the 2022 Volkswagen Jetta have not yet been released. The automaker expects the cars to begin arriving on dealers' lots in the fourth quarter of 2021.

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