Once a darling of the self-driving technology industry, Argo AI is shutting down after the Pittsburgh-based startup failed to secure additional funding, including from its two main backers, Ford and Volkswagen Group.
The automakers indicated that the path to commercialization of self-driving technology was taking too long and instead of further investing in Argo AI, they will absorb the company's assets. Approximately 2,000 staff members at Argo AI will also have the chance to join the self-driving technology divisions at either Ford or VW Group.
While announcing its third-quarter financial results on Wednesday, Ford said it recorded a $2.7 billion non-cash, pretax impairment on its investment in Argo AI, and that it will now focus on developing in-house self-driving technology ranked at Levels 2 and 3 on the SAE scale of self-driving capability.
VW Group also on Wednesday said it has another partner for development of self-driving technology for commercial vehicles, which it will name at a later date. For self-driving technology for private vehicles, VW Group is relying on its own Cariad software development team. VW Group said Cariad is developing self-driving technology up to Level 4 on the SAE scale.
Both Ford and VW Group were working with Argo AI to develop a Level 4 robotaxi service. Level 4 signifies a vehicle can drive on its own for extended periods but within certain conditions, the main one typically being within a geofenced area containing highly detailed map data. Level 3 is the first level in which a driver can take his or her eyes off the road, though only for short periods. The driver also has to be ready to take back control at any time. Level 5 is the ultimate goal, where a self-driving car matches the capability of a human.
While Ford has been vague on timing for its planned service with Argo AI, VW Group said in the past that it will launch its first service in 2025, initially in the German city of Hamburg. In its announcement on Wednesday, VW Group said it still intends to meet that target with its new partner. The service will be run by VW Group's Moia mobility business and use self-driving Volkswagen ID.Buzz electric vans.