An Argo AI test vehicle

The founders of the now-defunct autonomous vehicle company Argo AI, Bryan Salesky and Pete Rander, are starting a new self-driving company that focuses on freight and ride-hailing.

According to a Bloomberg News report, the pair will be backed by an investment from an unnamed non-automotive company. The new company is based in Pittsburgh and has hired as many as 50 employees, among them Brett Browning, Argo’s former chief technology officer.

The new venture comes after Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG’s decision to close Argo, which had more than 2,000 people globally. Inc. came very close to saving Argo last year; however, the economy deteriorated, and the company began reducing expenses instead. Ford wrote off its Argo AI investment last year for $2.7 billion.

Amazon is not an investor in the new company, according to the report. Both Salesky and Rander have experience with autonomous driving projects at Uber Technologies Inc. and Alphabet Inc.

Competitors to the new company include Alphabet’s Waymo, Aurora Innovation, Gatik AI, Waabi Innovation Inc. and TuSimple Holdings Inc.

Ford brings it all back home

Latitude CEO Sammy Omari

Having pulled the plug on Argo, Ford established a new subsidiary, Latitude AI, to develop the same technology in-house. Like Argo, Latitude is based in Pittsburgh, with additional engineering hubs in Dearborn, Michigan and Palo Alto, California. Latitude will also have a highway-speed test track in Greenville, South Carolina.

Latitude is charged with expanding Ford’s machine learning, robotics, software, sensors, systems engineering and test operations for use in developing a hands-free, eyes-off-the-road automated driving system. The new division boasts a 550-person workforce made up of former Argo AI employees. 

Ford is looking to augments its BlueCruise autonomous driving system, which so far has more than 50 million miles of hands-free driving to its credit.

“We see automated driving technology as an opportunity to redefine the relationship between people and their vehicles,” said Doug Field, chief advanced product development and technology officer, Ford Motor Co. “The deep experience and talent in our Latitude team will help us accelerate the development of all-new automated driving technology.”

Latitude Chief Technology Officer Peter Carr

Sammy Omari, executive director, ADAS Technologies at Ford, will serve as the CEO of Latitude. Peter Carr is Latitude’s chief technology officer, and David Gollob is its president.

“The expertise of the Latitude team will further complement and enhance Ford’s in-house global ADAS team in developing future driver assist technologies, ultimately delivering on the many benefits of automation,” Omari said.

Yet, while Argo AI was developing autonomous driving systems with no human involvement, Latitude’s systems will incorporate human involvement a crucial difference, as the dream of autonomous driving seems more remote than just a couple years ago.

Not an easy business

That’s why self-driving technology is proving to be a very tough industry. Although autonomous driving holds a lot of potential, it hasn’t exactly proven successful.

In order to maintain a healthy development fund, Aurora will be raising money once more and has looked into a sale or layoffs. Waymo has also experienced layoffs And Federal investigators have been looking at TuSimple regarding its to connections to China. Meanwhile, General Motors Co.’s Cruise LLC robotaxis business is expanding into new markets as is Waymo. Another robotaxi startup, Zoox Inc., was acquired by Amazon in 2020.

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