After many years and many billions of dollars of development, Ford has pulled the plug on its Argo self-driving car business.
“It’s estimated that more than a hundred billion has been invested in the promise of level four autonomy,” said Ford CEO, Jim Farley, during Ford’s Q3 earnings call. “And yet no one has defined a profitable business model at scale.” (Emphasis ours –Ed.)
The news came as a shock to a number of tech watchers and sci-fi fans – especially the ones who got roped into promises about mass-market robotaxis and widely available self driving cars arriving, “by 2019.”
To outsiders with advanced knowledge of the challenges facing autonomous cars, however, the move away from developing an in-house autonomous car was more-or-less expected. “It’s a scam,” says George Hotz, whose company Comma.ai Inc. makes a driver-assistance system similar to Tesla’s Autopilot. “These companies have squandered tens of billions of dollars.” At its peak, Waymo (a subsidiary of Google), at $200 billion … but it has since dropped to an estimated valuation of “just” $30 billion.
Ford, it seems, has become convinced that Argo AI had become a fruitless money pit. “Commercialization of (Level 4) autonomy, at scale, is going to take much longer than we previously expected,” Doug Field, chief advanced product development and technology officer at Ford, said during the earnings call. “L2+ and L3 driver assist technologies have a larger addressable customer base, which will allow it to scale more quickly, and profitability.”
Some Argo employees will be retained by Ford, while those who are not retained by either Ford or VW (an Argo investor) will additionally receive termination and severance pay that including health insurance.
SOURCE | IMAGES: FORD, VIA CLEANTECHNICA.
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