Our future promises to be filled with autonomous vehicles filing down the highways in close proximity while the passengers inside those machines focus their attention elsewhere. The initial levels of autonomous software and technology are already here, and we will only get more of it.

Ford is looking to the future in this space, and it believes that an investment in artificial intelligence development will help speed the company along. The automaker has pledged to invest $1 billion over the course of the next five years, and it's putting that money into the hands of Argo AI. This Pittsburgh-based company is exploring robotics, computer science, and artificial intelligence, all in regard to how they can lead us to better self-driving vehicles.

CHECK OUT: Self-driving cars: a primer

"The next decade will be defined by the automation of the automobile, and autonomous vehicles will have as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago," said Ford President and CEO Mark Fields.

Autonomous driving-human analogy

Autonomous driving-human analogy

The Blue Oval already has some autonomous technology under its R&D belt. Pairing with Argo will allow both to grow this technology even faster, thanks to Argo's work in this space and Ford's healthy pocketbook.

Argo will be tasked with developing the virtual driver system for Ford's autonomous cars. The goal is to use this technology in an SAE Level 4 fully autonomous vehicle to the commercial market by 2021.

“We are at an inflection point in using artificial intelligence in a wide range of applications, and the successful deployment of self-driving cars will fundamentally change how people and goods move,” said Argo AI CEO Bryan Salesky.

The team currently working within Ford on the project will be combined with Argo AI. The technology could also be licensed to other companies in the future.

Ford will continue to work on other aspects of autonomous cars, including the platforms, hardware, design, and manufacturing.

Ford now becomes the majority shareholder in Argo AI, and Ford puts two of its people on Argo AI's board: Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Product Development, and chief technical officer; and John Casesa, Ford group vice president, Global Strategy. Argo will still retain structural and internal independence and the employees will have equity stakes as well.

Argo AI will have to go on a hiring spree to meet its obligation to Ford. By the end of the year it expects to have more than 200 people in Pittsburgh, Southeastern Michigan, and the San Francisco Bay area.