Ford Motor, the car manufacturer, has created a new robotics and AI research team that will be housed under Ford’s Research and Advanced Engineering department.
According to a news report in TechCrunch, Dr. Ken Washington, Ford’s VP of research and engineering and CTO, disclosed the new unit in a Medium post in which he talked up the impact AI and robots will have during the next 10 years.
The new unit will work with Argo AI, a startup that Ford invested in for a majority stake earlier in 2017. The group will be tasked with working on projects for drones, personal mobility platforms, automation and aerial robotics.
Dr. Ken Washington also discussed the future of driving when two separate self-driving vehicle fleets will be on the road and operated by Ford, with one being led by Ford and the other by Argo AI. Ford wants self-driving car technology ready for 2021, when it deploys a ride-hailing fleet of vehicles, noted TechCrunch.
Ford is taking a page from other automakers who are also placing a lot of attention on AI and robots. TechCrunch pointed to Honda, which has had a program in place to develop robotics for some time, while Toyota Research Institute has been devoted to robotics, AI and advanced engineering for some time now.
In February, Ford announced its acquisition of a majority stake in artificial intelligence company Argo AI. Over the next five years, Ford’s investment, equaling $1 billion, will help fuel Ford’s intentions to release its first self-driving car by 2021. Founded by former Alphabet Inc. executive Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander, formerly of Uber Technologies Inc., Argo AI could be a strategic and valuable move for Ford to secure its place in the autonomous vehicle race.
As Ford works toward its goal of rolling out a self-driving car in five years, it’s claiming that, by the end of the decade, 20 percent of all U.S. auto sales will be made up of autonomous cars.