Developing robotaxis takes a lot of cash and many carmakers have come around to the idea that they shouldn’t do it alone. On Tuesday Ford appeared to signal it may give up its majority stake in its autonomous vehicle subsidiary Argo and share the load with the world’s no. 1 carmaker, Volkswagen, according to the Wall Street Journal. Argo, which Ford acquired in 2017, is among 10 or so big self-driving car developers, including Waymo and Cruise, that have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year or more. Miami and Pittsburgh are among the testing grounds for Argo’s prototypes. Argo is led by one of the pioneers of self-driving vehicle development at Google, Bryan Salesky.
VW previously implied that a deal with Ford over self-driving cars could happen. The companies recently agreed to manufacture certain vehicles for one another (Ford is better at making pickup trucks, for instance) and that Ford might license VW electric car tech. VW has its own autonomous vehicle unit under the Audi brand but that would likely take back seat to Argo. The main question is what would the new venture mean for the previously announced partnership between VW and a high-profile autonomous vehicle startup, Aurora, which is led by Salesky’s former boss at Google, Chris Urmson.
General Motors made a similar calculation with its Cruise autonomous vehicle unit, which it bought in 2016. Last year began letting outside investors, including Honda, take minority stakes.