burst! Ford Volkswagen self-driving company shuts down and disbands

According to multiple media reports, Argo AI, an L4-level autonomous driving technology company jointly invested by Ford and Volkswagen, was suddenly closed and dissolved. It was reported that after the dissolution, the employees and technology of Argo AI may be taken over by Ford and Volkswagen, but as of now, the two sides It is unclear how the subsequent distribution will be made.

On October 26, local time, Argo AI spokesman Alan Hall said in a statement: “The company will no longer continue to fulfill its mission. This is a decision made in coordination with shareholders. Some employees There will be an opportunity to continue working on the autonomous driving technology of Ford or Volkswagen, and the employment of others will unfortunately end.” Ford and Volkswagen, which hold 39% of the shares respectively, also announced that they would no longer invest in Argo AI. Ford pointed out in a statement: “The company needs to invest in driver assistance technologies that are easier to achieve in the short term, rather than Argo’s goal of fully autonomous driving”; Volkswagen stated that it would no longer invest in autonomous driving startup Argo AI, and will Its self-driving work focuses on existing collaborations with Bosch and Horizon.

In fact, there were signs of Argo AI’s poor development as early as July of this year. In July, Argo AI announced an adjustment to its business plan, which resulted in the layoff of 150 employees. The number of layoffs accounted for about 6% of the company’s total workforce. According to reports, at that time, Argo AI still had 2,000 employees worldwide and is now facing bankruptcy. , which means that the company’s employees will also be dismissed, and many employees will face unemployment at that time. However, according to Argo AI, after the dissolution of Argo AI, the company’s technical resources and achievements will be taken over by Ford and Volkswagen, including Argo AI’s most employees.

Founded in 2016, Argo AI is headquartered in Pittsburgh, USA. It is a US-based L4-level autonomous driving start-up company, mainly researching technologies related to driverless cars. Although the company is only a start-up company, its founder team has a lot of backgrounds. They have held important positions in the autonomous driving teams of Google and Uber, and have been invested and valued by the old car companies Ford and Volkswagen at the beginning of its establishment.

In February 2017, Argo AI, which was established less than a year ago, received a US$1 billion investment from Ford. At that time, Ford announced that it would invest US$1 billion in Argo AI in the next five years. As a result, Argo AI became famous and entered the public eye. At that time, Volkswagen was also committed to the development of autonomous driving technology, but its own technology did not meet the standards. In August 2018, Volkswagen negotiated acquisition ideas with Aurora and Waymo successively, but ultimately ended in failure. It was not until the cooperation with Argo AI that it got what it wanted. .

In June 2020, Argo AI received a US$2.6 billion investment from Volkswagen, of which US$1 billion came from a direct cash injection from the Volkswagen Group, and the rest was Volkswagen Group’s autonomous driving subsidiary Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID) valued at US$1.6 billion Merged into Argo AI. With the merger of AID, AID’s headquarters in Munich, Germany has become Argo AI’s new European base, and the number of Argo AI employees worldwide has increased from 500 to more than 700.

At that time, the founder and CEO of Argo AI once said: “In cooperation with Volkswagen and Ford, Argo AI’s technology can cover multiple brands and models in the North American and European markets in the future.” Backed by Ford and Volkswagen, two old car companies , Argo AI has raised a total of $3.6 billion in investment funds. At its peak, the market value was as high as $7 billion, and the number of employees reached more than 2,000. A year ago, there was news that Argo AI was considering an IPO.

The big reason for Argo AI’s success in one fell swoop is the support of the two major funders, Ford and Volkswagen. For the sudden closure and dissolution of Argo AI, the main reason is the slow progress of its autonomous driving and the burning of money. Based on uncertainty about the prospects, Ford and Volkswagen decided to no longer inject capital. John Lawler, Ford chief financial officer, said: “There is still a long way to go to achieve profitable fully autonomous vehicles at scale, and it will take at least five more years to see a return on investment in fully autonomous driving, which also means It also requires billions of dollars of investment.” For Ford, the current Argo AI can no longer meet Ford’s development needs. In addition, according to Ford’s third-quarter financial report, Ford’s investment in Argo AI has seen a “non-profitable” $2.7 billion. Cash impairment before tax,” which, combined with supply chain issues, resulted in a net loss of $827 million in the third quarter. And VW CEO Oliver Blume also said: “Especially when it comes to the development of future technologies, focus and speed are of the essence. Our goal is to provide our customers with the most powerful features in the shortest possible time and make our The development is as cost-effective as possible.” The public also saw no prospects for Argo AI, so it immediately dropped support for Argo.

Industry insiders generally believe that the closure of Argo AI is a major turning point in the entire autonomous driving field. After Ford and Volkswagen exit, they will tighten their investment in L4 autonomous driving and instead focus resources on the development of L2+ and L3 intelligent driving. In addition, in stark contrast to the under-appreciated autonomous driving track overseas, the Chinese market is leading the intelligent electrification transformation of the global automotive industry. In the middle of this month, Volkswagen has invested about 2.4 billion euros (about 16.8 billion yuan) to form a joint venture subsidiary with Horizon in China, and the transaction is expected to be completed in the first half of 2023. Of course, Volkswagen has set up a new joint venture company in China, hoping to speed up the development of advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous driving systems for the Chinese market; on October 27, Pony.ai, one of the earliest autonomous driving companies in the Robotaxi field Announced that its self-driving travel service (Robotaxi) was officially connected to the Ruqi travel platform, integrating the capacity of manned vehicles and autonomous vehicles.

According to incomplete statistics, in 2021, there will be a total of 105 financings in the domestic autonomous driving industry, with a total financing amount of 57.5 billion yuan; since 2022, 80 financings have also occurred in the domestic autonomous driving industry, of which 21 are financings of 100 million yuan or more. Pen. Industry insiders predict that this year will be the year when autonomous driving technology is truly integrated with the industry.

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