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3 Mar, 2023
2 min time to read

Ford has declared the establishment of a completely owned subsidiary named Latitude AI, which will take the lead in the company's endeavors to design an unsupervised driving system that is hands-free and eye-off.

Latitude AI, a new autonomous vehicle company launched by Ford, has rehired approximately 550 employees from Argo AI after the latter shut down last year due to the withdrawal of Ford's funding. The new company will be based in Pittsburgh, with engineering hubs in Dearborn, Michigan, and Palo Alto, California, and a highway-speed test track facility in Greenville, South Carolina. Sammy Omari, Ford's executive director of ADAS technologies, will serve as the CEO of Latitude AI, and Peter Car will be the chief technology officer overseeing product and technical development. The company will focus on enhancing and leveraging Ford's BlueCruise advanced driver-assist system, a Level 2 system that controls major functions like acceleration, braking, lane centering, and automatic lane changing, but still requires drivers to keep their eyes on the road and be ready to take control at a moment's notice. BlueCruise-equipped vehicles have already traveled a total of 50 million miles.

When Argo AI shut down, Ford announced that it would shift its spending from Level 4 driverless technology to Level 2 and Level 3 driver-assist products. Ford CEO Jim Farley stated that the company is optimistic about a future for Level 4 ADAS, but fully autonomous vehicles at scale are a long way off and may not require Ford to create that technology themselves. Ford believes that collecting monthly ADAS subscription fees from its millions of customers is a better strategy than waiting for an urban robotaxi service to begin generating profits.

The shuttering of Argo AI sent shockwaves through the industry, as Ford was one of the first big automakers to express pessimism around AVs. Argo's main rivals, Waymo and Cruise, have also faced major leadership shake-ups, and valuations have dropped as timelines have stretched further and further out. Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo are investing heavily in unsupervised highway driving features, while GM's Ultra Cruise system will work in 95 percent of driving scenarios. Ford has yet to announce any lidar-equipped vehicles of its own, but Latitude AI will likely play a role in any future announcements.