Argo AI is a self-driving car technology company that Ford bought a controlling stake in two years ago. It's based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is currently testing prototypes not only in its hometown but also in Silicon Valley, Miami and Washington, D.C. Recently, it also expanded to the streets of Detroit.

The company on Wednesday revealed that its latest prototypes, based on the Ford Fusion, represent a third-generation design. The self-driving system fitted to the prototypes is more capable than ever and features modifications designed to improve safety in a variety of conditions.

Argo AI self-driving car prototype

Argo AI self-driving car prototype

Among the modifications is a significantly upgraded sensor suite, including new sets of radar and cameras with higher resolution and higher dynamic range. According to Argo AI, the sensor suite and associated software are much better at spotting an object far away and determining its identity.

The computer hardware to process all of the data has also been upgraded. The latest hardware not only has more processing power but also produces less heat and doesn't make as much noise as the previous system.

Argo AI self-driving car prototype

Argo AI self-driving car prototype

Argo AI has also improved the fail-safes. For example, the third-generation prototypes are equipped with secondary braking and steering systems able to maintain vehicle motion control in the event one of the primary systems fail.

The company is working on a Level 4 self-driving system. This means a vehicle can fully function on its own, though only within set conditions. Typically, Level 4 self-driving cars are limited to areas with sufficient map data, known as geo-fencing. The end goal is a Level 5 self-driving car, which will be able to function in all conditions expected of a human driver.

Argo AI self-driving car prototype

Argo AI self-driving car prototype

The progress is taking longer than expected. Ford had expected to have a self-driving car devoid of a steering and pedals in operation by 2021, but CEO Jim Hackett said in April that the automaker's self-driving car will have a much narrower scope when it arrives at the deadline.

News of Argo AI's third-generation prototype comes as rumors circle of the Volkswagen Group joining Ford as a major investor in the self-driving tech company. VW recently ditched previous partner Aurora and is expected to make an announcement concerning Argo AI in the summer.