HomeBusinessFord and VW's self-driving company halts DC operations

Ford and VW’s self-driving company halts DC operations

Ford had planned to launch a robotaxi service in DC last year with technology from Argo AI, but the launch was delayed during the pandemic.

“We learned what we needed from testing in the market there and are continuing to test in Miami and Austin,” Ford spokeswoman Jennifer Flake said of DC. VW declined to comment.

Argo AI’s workforce had grown to around 2,000 people from over 1,000 in 2020. The layoffs were first reported by Automotive News. The shutdown of Argo AI’s DC operation has not been previously reported.

Ford CEO Jim Farley said during the company’s latest earnings call this spring that self-driving technology was “an expensive thing” and that it was growing increasingly interested in using the technology to move things like freight.

Many Argo AI competitors, including Alphabet’s Waymo and Toyota-backed Aurora, have already opted to focus more on self-driving trucks, which industry experts say are much easier to build than robotaxis. The autonomous driving industry, including Argo AI, has learned that teaching a vehicle to safely navigate a busy city, with construction sites, pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles is difficult. emergency. Trucks, on the other hand, mostly stick to highways.

Farley also described access to capital as “very critical” as automakers seek to fund Argo AI for “many years to come.” Startups are finding it harder to raise funds this year amid inflation, rising interest rates, a falling stock market and a shaky economy.
Argo AI was founded in 2016 and Ford became the majority shareholder in 2017. VW invested in 2020. Automakers now own equal shares of the company.
Argo AI completes autonomous vehicle testing in Washington, DC.

Argo AI appears to be making significant progress towards a robotaxi service. In May, it announced it was offering self-driving rides without a human test driver behind the wheel to its employees in Austin and Miami. (Two of Argo AI’s rivals, GM’s Waymo and Cruise, operate robotaxis in Phoenix and San Francisco, respectively.)

“With incredible growth and progress in our mission to deploy driverless vehicles, we are making careful adjustments to our business plan to better continue on the path to success,” said Argo AI spokesperson, Alan Hall, in a statement.

The DC government allows testing of fully autonomous vehicles, but companies cannot legally operate robotaxis in the city. Ford first announced plans in 2018 to test autonomous vehicles in the nation’s capital. He expected the DC robotaxi service to be his second market after Miami, where he was already testing.
Sherif Marakby, who was then CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, said at the time that the DC expansion was “a huge opportunity to understand how a full self-driving business could be used.” Marakby left Ford in 2020, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The city will need to develop a policy to certify such a service, but that is not currently being created, according to German Vigil, spokesman for the district’s transportation department.

Argo AI and Ford declined to say whether regulations were a factor in the departure.

This story has been updated to clarify the relationship between Ford and Argo AI.

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