Ford has set up a self-driving division called Ford Autonomous Vehicles. The new company will enter into partnerships and generate funding to speed research into self-driving cars. The carmaker will sink $4bn into the new venture, which will be based at a 366,000m² site near Detroit.
Ford Autonomous Vehicles is the name of the new research division specialising in self-driving cars launched by Ford on 24 July. The US car manufacturer, which hopes to put its first autonomous car on the market in 2021, is planning to invest $4bn (€3.42bn) in the division between now and 2023, as reported by Les Numériques.
A vast new hub near Detroit
Devoted to the manufacture of electric and autonomous cars, the new Ford division will be situated at a 366,000m² site at Corktown, near Detroit. The carmaker will base 2,500 of its own employees there along with 2,500 workers from its partners and other companies. “These investments are far from being symbolic,” Ford executive chairman Bill Ford told the website Usine Digitale. “We’re investing heavily in the future of Ford and the future of mobility.”
Ford Autonomous Vehicles will be headed up by Sherif Marakby, previously Vice President, Autonomous Vehicles and Electrification at Ford. His job will be to oversee research, engineering and the integration of autonomous navigation systems, as well as the development of the unit and its financial strategy. Ford’s ultimate goal is to operate an entire fleet of autonomous vehicles.
External investors wanted
Ford is keen to attract external stakeholders who can provide funding or technical expertise for the new division. The carmaker is looking to respond to the success of Cruise Automation Unit, which was taken over by General Motors in 2016 and has received investment to the tune of $2.25bn from SoftBank. The startup is currently valued at $11.5bn, with SoftBank owning a 19.6% stake.
Ford faces stiff competition in the autonomous vehicle market. While Tesla and Uber have both seen their progress slowed by a number of fatal accidents, Uber’s cars are back on the road again. In the meantime, Lyft – in partnership with General Motors – and Waymo have moved ahead. Ford is putting its faith in the startup Argo AI, which specialises in artificial intelligence and robotics applied to self-driving cars, with the carmaker having invested $1bn in it in February 2017.
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