Ford made a $1 billion investment in Argo.AI three years ago. Ford has also partnered with Volkswagen to jointly develop the Argo.AI platform. Zachary Shahan just wrote a story about Ford, Volkswagen, and Argo.AI a few days ago, in which he pondered whether the three companies are poised to become one of the dominant forces in self-driving technology.
What to make then of the news this week that Ford is now working with Mobileye — which is owned by Intel — on self-driving systems? Does this mean the Ford/Argo.AI marriage is on the rocks? Not necessarily.
According to Ford, the two companies “are expanding their relationship to offer even better camera-based detection capabilities for driver-assist systems, including improved forward collision warning, vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist detection, plus lane-keeping features. Mobileye will provide its suite of EyeQ® sensing technology to support available Ford Co-Pilot360™ Technology driver-assist features such as Lane-Keeping System, Auto High-Beam headlamps, Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking and Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop-and-Go and Lane Centering.”
In other words, Mobileye is not taking over the development of “hands off the wheel” autonomous driving technology. It is making Ford’s driver assistance features more robust. Perhaps the biggest news in the announcement is this. “While Ford and Mobileye have worked together for years, this marks the first time Ford is committing to the company’s technology for the entire lifecycle of its next-generation vehicles. Both parties will work with designated Ford Tier 1 providers to supply the technology for vehicle integration.” The Mobileye name will also be prominently displayed on the cars’ touchscreens going forward.
The first of those “next generation” vehicles will be the upcoming family of Bronco vehicles, which Ford hopes will cut into the popularity of Jeep Wrangler off-road vehicles. The Mustang Mach-E and the next generation F-150 pickup truck will also benefit from the collaboration with Mobileye. The news is a coup for Mobileye, which is now working with 13 of the world’s top 15 automakers, according to CNBC.
And what of Argo.AI? Frankly, one might have expected Ford to make some mention of it in this latest announcement, but it chose not to. Make of that what you will.