Ford announced, on February 10th, 2017, a new stage in its efforts to produce a market-ready autonomous vehicle by 2021. Over the next five years, the company will invest a stunning USD 1 billion in a robotics and artificial intelligence company, founded by former Google and Uber employees, Argo AI. Signaling its vision for an autonomous vehicle dominated future in which private car ownership will see a drastic decline, Ford will add another key center of development to its Michigan headquarters which have, thus far, housed its autonomous vehicle development efforts.

This announcement sees the continuation of a rising trend among the auto industry’s traditional heavyweights that saw industry heavyweights Ford and GM join software and technology industry giants, such as Google and Apple, and a host of eager startups in the burgeoning field of autonomous, or self-driving, vehicle development.

The investment in Argo AI will see Ford’s efforts in Michigan joined by Argo’s development center in Pittsburgh, adding an estimated 200 employees over the coming year. This development sees Ford establish itself in what has become one of the leading centers of autonomous vehicle research and development. Pittsburgh, home to leading self-driving technology forerunner Carnegie Mellon University, the city is already home to ride-sharing powerhouse Uber’s test-fleet of self-driving cars as well as automobile technology developer Delphi Automotive’s self-driving radar and camera technology development.

Alongside the development in Pittsburgh, Michigan, the American auto industry’s traditional stronghold, is home to another leading environment competing with Silicon Valley’s technology and software expertise. Recent years have seen automakers, such as GM—who, together with its partner and Uber competitor Lyft, launched a self-driving pilot in Detroit— and technology companies, such as Google spin-off Waymo, bring their autonomous vehicle units to the city.

As the push to reduce harmful carbon emissions creates increased pressure on cities and government to improve the sustainability of their transportation sectors, the need for new solutions to mobility will continue to rise. This progression will only continue to strengthen the demand for ride-sharing services and improved public transportation that will help citizens to reduce their reliance on privately owned vehicles, a trend, as evidenced by these development, now strongly acknowledged by the world’s leading automakers.

Read Ford’s announcement 

A New York Times article on the growing prominence of traditional auto manufacturers in the new field of research 

GM and Lyft build up their test fleet in Detroit 

Read up on Waymo’s expanding test fleet 

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