Skip to main content

Will Detroit be the ultimate test for Argo A.I.’s self-driving Ford?


Pennsylvania-based self-driving car startup Argo A.I. revealed its third-generation autonomous car prototype on the streets of Detroit. The company, which received a $1 billion investment from Ford in 2017, explained it made comprehensive upgrades to the technology that helps its experimental sedan safely and reliably drive itself without any human input.

Argo A.I.’s test mule is based on the Fusion Hybrid; Ford invested a fortune in the company, so using a Volvo V60 presumably wouldn’t fly. It looks a lot like the previous prototypes, but Argo A.I. published a lengthy Medium post to explain the car is fitted with new technology that is one step closer to production. The updates included an upgraded sensor suite with new radars and cameras that detect objects further away than previously possible. That means if you cross the street in front of the car, its camera will generate a digital image of you using about a dozen pixels instead of one or two in Argo’s last-generation technology. In turn, the car has a better chance of knowing you’re a pedestrian, not a fire hydrant.

Detecting obstacles is useless if the car is unable to interpret what it sees. To that end, Argo A.I. designed a new computing system with more processing power. The car’s brain is also smaller in physical size, quieter, and cooler. Generating less heat and emitting less noise makes riding in the autonomous Fusion a much more comfortable experience. Finally, like competitor Uber, Argo A.I. fitted backup systems that keep the car moving (or, depending on the situation, bring it to a stop) if one of the primary systems fail for any reason.

Detroit residents will soon see the Fusion Hybrid-based prototype navigating its way through town. Argo is looking forward to finding out how its technology performs on the streets of the nation’s Motor City, where no two streets are alike. Some are wide; others are narrow. Some are marked; others aren’t. Many are under construction, and we hope the Fusion won’t plow through someone’s fence when it first encounters snow.

Argo A.I.’s third-generation self-driving cars will also be deployed on the streets of Pittsburgh, Miami, Washington D.C., and Palo Alto, California. Could Wolfsburg, Germany, join the roster sooner or later? Possibly.

Volkswagen may soon help Ford and Argo A.I. make self-driving cars a reality. The company put an end to its relatively brief partnership with Amazon-backed Aurora, one of Argo’s rivals, and insiders revealed it’s preparing to join Ford — which it already develops commercial vehicles with — in a bid to boost Argo to superstar status in the self-driving car world. The three companies want to take Alphabet’s Waymo division head-on.

If the trio agrees on the terms of collaboration, the alliance could be made public before the end of the summer.

Editors' Recommendations

Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
Officers confused as they pull over an empty self-driving car

In what appears to be the first incident of its kind, police officers recently pulled over a self-driving car with no one inside it.

The incident, which took place on a street in San Francisco earlier this month, was caught on video by a passing pedestrian. It shows several traffic cops pondering about how to handle the incident after stopping the vehicle for failing to have its front lights on while driving at night.

Read more
How a big blue van from 1986 paved the way for self-driving cars
Lineup of all 5 Navlab autonomous vehicles.

In 1986, a blue Chevy van often cruised around the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania near Carnegie Mellon University. To the casual observer, nothing about it appeared out of the ordinary. Most people would pass by it without noticing the camcorder peeking out from its roof, or the fact that there were no hands on the steering wheel.

But if any passerby had stopped to inspect the van and peer into its interior, they would have realized it was no ordinary car. This was the world's first self-driving automobile: A pioneering work of computer science and engineering somehow built in a world where fax machines were still the predominant way to send documents, and most phones still had cords. But despite being stuck in an era where technology hadn't caught up to humanity's imagination quite yet, the van -- and the researchers crammed into it -- helped to lay the groundwork for all the Teslas, Waymos, and self-driving Uber prototypes cruising around our streets in 2022.

Read more
Watch folks react to their first ride in GM Cruise’s driverless car
Two people taking their first ride in an autonomous car.

General Motors autonomous car unit, Cruise, has started to offer driverless rides to residents of San Francisco as it moves toward the launch of a full-fledged robo-taxi service.

Following a test run of the service last week, Cruise has released a video (below) showing the reaction of the very first passengers as they rode through the streets of the Californian city in a vehicle that had nobody behind the wheel.

Read more