Ford Motor Co. said it is creating a separate US$4 billion unit to house its self-driving vehicle operations and is seeking outside investors, Reuters reports.
The carmaker said it would invest US$4 billion through 2023 in its newly formed Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, including the US$1 billion it previously had earmarked for Argo AI, the Pittsburgh-based self-driving startup that Ford acquired in 2017.
Despite the current flurry of development activity globally by dozens of established and startup companies, Ford senior management believes that the market for self-driving vehicles eventually will consolidate around three or four major players, “and they want to be in the mix”, according to a source familiar with Ford’s thinking.
Ford has had previous discussions with potential investors, the source said, but the nature and depth of those discussions remain unclear.
A Ford spokesperson declined to confirm whether the automaker has had discussions with SoftBank regarding a potential investment in Ford’s self-driving operations.
GM’s spinoff of Cruise drew a US$2.25 billion investment from SoftBank Group. The Japanese group’s 19.6 percent stake valued Cruise at US$11.5 billion.
On Tuesday, Ford said its new unit, to be based at the group’s new Corktown campus in Detroit, will house self-driving vehicle research, engineering and systems integration, as well as business strategy and development for the automaker’s future self-driving vehicle fleet.
Ford said it hopes to accelerate business opportunities with the creation of the unit, which it said is “structured to take on third-party investment”.
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