Ford and Volkswagen put the brakes on their self-driving car plans

Argo AI, a start-up founded in 2016 and specializing in autonomous cars, burst onto the scene in 2017, when the manufacturer Ford injected $1 billion into it, followed by Volkswagen in 2020 with $2.6 billion. of dollars. Five years later, it is about to go out of business. On the occasion of the publication of its results for the third quarter of 2022, on October 26, Ford explained that it would no longer invest in the start-up, imitated in stride by Volkswagen, reports the specialized site TechCrunch. Only part of its 2,000 employees will be rehired by the two main financiers.

Ford reports results weighed down by investments in Argo IA and a net loss of $827 million for the third quarter. The initial objective of the start-up was to market its autonomous vehicle technology in 2021: it was then a question of developing a level 4 advanced driver assistance system (Adas), i.e. say allowing almost total autonomy.

Driving assistance technologies

But Ford CEO Jim Farley seems to want to make a strategic shift to focus on Tier 2 and Tier 3 technologies, essentially consisting of driver assist devices. “We are confident for the future of level 4 driver assistance systems, but we are still a long way from mass production of fully autonomous vehicles, and it is not necessarily us who will create this technology”, did he declare. “In other words, the auto giant would rather develop driver assistance technologies than make cars, taxis or buses that don’t require a human driver,” comment the site Quartz.

As remarked TechCrunch, Ford and Volkswagen aren’t the only automakers struggling to realize the promise of the self-driving car. For example, technology auto pilot of Tesla is now the subject of an investigation by the US Department of Justice. “It turned out to be more complicated than expected to keep all the promises on the commercialization of autonomous vehicles. The industry has been marked by a strong movement of consolidation, in which companies have disappeared or been taken over by others.”

Asked by The Detroit News, a former Apple and Tesla engineer concludes: “Argo was on a mission to solve what I believe to be the most difficult technical problem of our time. It is easier to send a man to the moon than to design a robot taxi capable of navigating safely through the density of an urban environment.”

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