Ford has taken a giant step nearer to getting driverless vehicles onto the road within five years. According to news sources, Ford Motor Co. has bought a majority share in artificial intelligence start-up Argo. Ford Chief Executive Mark Fields told the LA Times “Argo AI will provide the “brains” for virtual driving systems. Argo becomes a Ford subsidiary and will work intimately with Ford engineers to integrate driverless software with sensors and other hardware systems that will be built into Ford vehicles.”
Based in Pittsburgh, Argo is a small AI company that has made big developments in driverless technology. Chief Executive of Argo Bryan Salseky worked with Google to develop self-drive systems, while Chief Operating Office Peter Rander has also developed the technology with Uber. Argo will now exclusively work with Ford employees who are currently testing driverless cars in Michigan and San Francisco.
The investment by Ford has been seen as a major boost to the city’s economy with local papers declaring that Pittsburgh, once famous for its steel, was about to become the new Motor City of the USA. The US Department of Transport had previously named Pittsburgh as one of the “proving ground sites” for autonomous vehicles. It is hoped that other automakers will also move to Pittsburgh now it has become a hub for driverless car development.
Driverless cars have long been a dream of developers and have been a feature of science fiction movies such as Minority Report (2002) and I, Robot (2004). In recent years, governments such as Singapore’s have started to push forward with development as a way to have a significant impact on the economy, transportation, and on the health and safety of the public. Roobla also reported that much of the technology for autonomous vehicles is coming from the robotics industry with Oxford University conducting tests in the UK.
Computers have become a huge part of the motor industry, from the on board display panels to how engines are configured. Technology in cars has developed to the stage where companies are able to monitor their employees driving through GPS trackers. According to Telogis, who design these trackers, the “GPS fleet-tracking solution gives supervisors near real-time data so they can monitor driving behaviours and develop comprehensive safety goals and procedures based on fleet-wide driving habits.” Human error is currently being taken out of driving as much as possible. The next logical step will be fully autonomous vehicles.
The autonomous vehicle developments going on in Pittsburgh have met some resistance. Protesters have argued that companies such as Uber have no transition commitment for the thousands of workers currently with the company and will leave many out of work in the near future. Much concern across the globe is how to use a workforce that is on the brink of being replaced. The manufacturing industry has seen huge cuts in jobs in the past years and there are concerns that governments are not doing enough to protect worker’s rights.
Ford’s commitment to developing driverless technology and having autonomous vehicles on the road in the next five years demonstrates that the automobile industry is taking the future of motor travel seriously. While this will have a big effect on the economy of Pittsburgh, the effect this could have on the workforce is still to be answered.