The battle between GM-backed Cruise and Ford/VW-backed Argo AI is over as the latter company is shutting down.
The news comes as a surprise, but in a statement to TechCrunch, the company said “In coordination with our shareholders, the decision has been made that Argo AI will not continue on its mission as a company. Many of the employees will receive an opportunity to continue work on automated driving technology with either Ford or Volkswagen, while employment for others will unfortunately come to an end.”
In a series of tweets, Ford CEO Jim Farley said the decision to shutter Argo AI was related to a shift in focus towards Level 3 semi-autonomous driving systems. While he noted, “I have the greatest respect for the team at Argo AI and what they’ve accomplished,” he said Ford’s mission is to “change travel for the many rather than the few.”
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I have the greatest respect for the team at @ArgoAI & what they’ve accomplished. I’m excited we’re going to bring in many of these brilliant people to @Ford to help us create a terrific L3 BlueCruise system that enables our customers to travel w/o their eyes on the road.
— Jim Farley (@jimfarley98) October 26, 2022
Farley went on to say he looks forward to bringing “many” former Argo AI employees onboard, so they can create a “terrific L3 BlueCruise system that enables our customers to travel w/o their eyes on the road.” He added, “it’s about giving millions of people time back” and to lessen the “monotony of highway miles & stop-and-go traffic.”
Farley then pointed to the company’s third-quarter earnings release, which stated the automaker “concluded that the auto industry’s large-scale profitable commercialization of Level 4 advanced driver assistance systems will be further out than originally anticipated – but development and customer enthusiasm for benefits of L2+ and L3 ADAS warrant dialing up the company’s near-term aspirations and commitment in those areas.”
Ford’s release went on to say they made a “strategic decision to shift its capital spending from the L4 advanced driver assistance systems being developed by Argo AI to internally developed L2+/L3 technology.” This change appears to have been fatal for Argo AI, which was “unable to attract new investors.”
As a result, Ford “recorded a $2.7 (£2.3 / €2.6) billion non-cash, pretax impairment on its investment in Argo AI, resulting in an $827 (£711 / €820) million net loss for Q3.”
For their part, the Volkswagen Group said they’re “consolidating” their autonomous driving efforts and will no longer invest in Argo AI. The company added, “Cariad is continuing to drive forward the development of highly automated and autonomous driving together with Bosch and, in the future, in China with Horizon Robotics.”
Volkswagen also noted the death of Argo AI isn’t the end of their relationship with the Blue Oval. As they stated, “All other collaborations with Ford remain unchanged.”