Signed three years ago, a strategic alliance signed between giants Ford and Volkswagen was supposed to provide an alternative to Tesla competing in the autonomous driving systems and electric vehicle segment.
In the agreement signed between the two companies, Volkswagen committed to invest no less than $2.6 billion in a startup specializing in developing autonomous vehicle technologies – Argo AI, acquired in 2017 by Ford in a $1 billion deal. The cost of the project has since climbed to $3.6 billion, with the two auto industry giants employing more than 2,000 highly paid specialists recruited on artificial intelligence technologies.
As part of the project, Ford was to gain access to Volkswagen’s MEB (Modular E-Antriebs-Baukasten) platform for electric vehicles, which it would use to launch at least one full-electric production model by 2023. The automaker hopes to deliver at least 600,000 electric vehicles across Europe using the VW MEB platform architecture, with a second Ford model already under discussion.
Founded by former Uber employees, engineers schooled at Carnegie Melon University’s robotics labs, the Argo startup was to become a global entity whose technologies would be incorporated into both Ford and Volkswagen vehicles, tested on roads in the United States and Europe.
In reality, the project was hampered by the slowdown in the global economy and perhaps overly optimistic expectations of the financing companies, with little experience outside the traditional combustion-engine car market.
“In coordination with our shareholders, the decision has been made that Argo AI will not pursue its stated mission,” an Argo AI spokesperson said in an official statement. “Many employees will be given the opportunity to continue their work in autonomous driving technologies with either Ford or Volkswagen, while contracts for others will unfortunately be terminated.”