Argo AI

Last updated
Type limited liability company
Industry Self-driving car
Founded2016;5 years ago (2016)
Founders Bryan Salesky
Peter Rander
Key people
Bryan Salesky (CEO)
Peter Rander (President)
Parent Ford Motor Company 40%
Volkswagen Group 40%
Argo AI founders and employees 20%

Argo AI is an autonomous driving technology company headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. [1] [2] The company was co-founded in 2016 by Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander, veterans of the Google and Uber automated driving programs. [3] Argo AI is an independent company that builds the software, hardware, maps, and cloud-support infrastructure to power self-driving vehicles. Argo has two major investors: Ford Motor Co. (2017) [4] and the Volkswagen Group (2020). [5] Argo’s Self Driving System (SDS) technology will be incorporated into vehicles manufactured by the auto-makers through these partnerships. [6] [7]



Argo AI was co-founded in November 2016 by roboticists Bryan Salesky and Peter Rander. As of July 2020, the company employed over 1000 employees with offices [8] in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Palo Alto, Cranbury, NJ [9] and Munich, Germany. [10] In June 2020, Argo was valued at $7.25 billion. [11]

Salesky (CEO) was born in Woodhaven, MI outside of Detroit and settled in Pittsburgh, PA, where Argo is based. [3] He earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 2002 and began working at Union Switch & Signal, a supplier of railroad signaling equipment, where he worked on anti-collision software for trains. [3] From 2004 to 2011 he worked at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, where Rander was his boss. [3]

In 2007, Salesky and Chris Urmson [3] led Carnegie Mellon’s software development team for the third DARPA driverless car competition dubbed the Urban Challenge. [12] From 2013 - 2016, Salesky served as director of hardware development for Google’s autonomous vehicle initiative, now known as Waymo. [12] [3]

Rander (President), a Michigan native [13] and University of Detroit Mercy alumnus [14] earned his MS and Ph.D. degrees in Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and worked alongside Salesky at the National Robotics Engineering Center. [15]  From 2015 to 2016, [16] Rander was the engineering lead for Uber’s Advanced Technology Group (ATG); Uber’s self-driving car unit. [17]

Argo AI was initially funded in late 2016 through a small seed round from an undisclosed source. [10] In February 2017, Ford Motor Company announced that it was to invest $1 billion in Argo AI over the next five years, to develop a virtual driver system for the automaker's autonomous vehicle coming in 2021. [4] Ford became the company’s largest shareholder, enabling them to hire 200 additional employees including members of Ford's R&D team. [18]

In June 2020, Volkswagen invested $2.6 billion into Argo AI. Under the terms of the deal, Volkswagen committed $1 billion in cash into Argo AI and its Munich-based Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID) unit - valued at $1.6 billion. [19] The AID technology unit, consisting of over 200 employees, was first launched to develop autonomous vehicle technology for VW automobiles. According to the terms of the deal, VW was to purchase Argo AI shares from Ford for $500 million over three years, while Ford would invest the remaining $600 million of its $1 billion cash commitment to the company. In executing the agreement, the Munich-based AID team was integrated into Argo AI to form the company’s European engineering center. [19]

Between the partnerships, Argo has raised over $3.6 billion. [19] Argo’s ownership is shared among its largest shareholders, Ford and Volkswagen, each of whom owns 40 percent of the company and its management team with just over 20 percent—to utilize as an equity incentive for employees. [20] Its board of directors is composed of two Ford seats, two Volkswagen seats, and three Argo seats. [10]


Argo claims its technology will deliver Level 4-capable Self-Driving Systems (SDS) for autonomous driving (AV) vehicles. [21] Autonomous driving categories are defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers and have been adopted as industry standards by the U.S. Department of Transportation. [22]

The technology developed by Argo comprises the entire self-driving system, including the software and hardware compute platforms, sensors, cameras, radar, and light detection and ranging radar (LIDAR). [10]

In October 2017, Argo purchased Princeton Lightwave, a producer of lidar technology, based in Cranbury, NJ. [23]

In 2019, Argo introduced its third-generation test vehicle, based on the Ford Fusion Hybrid, which incorporates higher-resolution cameras with wider dynamic ranges, increased computer processing power, and heating and cooling systems improvements. [18]

Argo plans to deliver autonomous driving technology for shared fleets rather than personal ownership with applications including ride-hailing and goods delivery services. [24]  

Road testing

Argo has self-driving vehicle testing locations in Pittsburgh and Dearborn, MI as part of its research and development initiatives.  In early 2018, Argo began testing vehicles in Miami, FL marking the first time vehicles were tested outside the company’s home territories of Detroit and Pittsburgh. [25] Additional test sites for the Argo and Ford collaboration include Washington, D.C.(Oct. 2018), [26] and Austin, TX (Sept. 2019). [27] Argo began testing out of its Palo Alto engineering center after receiving its permit from the CA DMV in Jan. 2019. [28] The expansion to additional urban test sites allows the company to capture the unique driving behavior and road culture of each city. [29]  Argo’s testing includes millions of simulations to represent various weather, infrastructure, pedestrian, and other conditions. [24]

University research

In 2017, Argo announced university partnerships with Carnegie Mellon University and the Georgia Institute of Technology to research computer vision and machine learning technologies. [30]

In June 2019, Argo announced a $15 million investment over five years to create the Carnegie Mellon University Argo AI Center for Autonomous Vehicle Research, which will focus on advanced algorithms for autonomous vehicles, specifically for advanced perception and decision-making capabilities. [31] [15] The announcement follows the company’s introduction of its open source data set, a set of highly curated maps and data released to further the study of autonomous vehicle research and development. [32] Research topics slated for study at the research center include smart sensor fusion, 3D scene understanding, urban simulation, map-based perception, behavior prediction, and software validation. [17]

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