Ford Motor is accelerating its push into the self-driving business by consolidating all its autonomous vehicle operations into a new subsidiary.
Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC will include the automaker’s self-driving systems integration, AV research and advanced engineering, AV transportation-as-a-service network development, user experience, business strategy, and business development teams.
The new unit will also hold Ford’s ownership stake in Argo AI, its partner for self-driving system development. Ford said it expects to invest $4 billion in its AV efforts through 2023, including its $1 billion investment in Argo AI.
The company has set a target of launching a self-driving commercial vehicle at scale in 2021.
“Ford has made tremendous progress across the self driving value chain — from technology development to business model innovation to user experience,” CEO Jim Hackett said in a news release. “Now is the right time to consolidate our autonomous driving platform into one team to best position the business for the opportunities ahead.”
As Jalopnik reports, Ford has taken a “slow approach” to AV technology compared to rivals that have been “racing to introduce commercialized autonomous cars as soon as possible … Both its current and former CEOs have expressed trepidation about where autonomous tech stands today, and Argo AI’s chief has taken pains to criticize the rest of the industry for overhyping it.”
The AV unit is structured to take on third-party investment similar to Softbank’s interest in General Motors’ Cruise Automation business. It will be separate from Ford’s Smart Mobility LLC, which handles new business opportunities such as Chariot shuttles.
“The third-party investment opportunity is particularly noteworthy for Ford,” Benzinga said. “Long-term, it positions the company to spin off or monetize the AV programs, and more immediately, it sets the stage for a significant stock catalyst.”