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Ford and VW announced this week that the companies would be ending their investment in Argo AI, a self-driving company with partnerships with Lyft and Walmart, and that the company would be shutting its doors.
Some of Argo AI’s around 2,000 employees would either be receiving offers from Ford, whose president and CEO said the company expected to make several hundred offers, or VW. The rest would be let go and receive severance packages that include insurance and two separate bonuses.
Chris Urmson, the co-founder and CEO of Aurora, a self-driving company that has partnerships with Toyota and Uber, shared a note to Aurora’s newsletter about the recent news.
Urmson’s entire note can be read below.
Sorry to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming, but major news was announced in the self-driving industry yesterday and I wanted to share my perspective.
Argo is shutting down.
First, my thoughts are with Bryan Salesky and the entire Argo team—this industry is small, we all know each other well, and many of us here at Aurora have worked with the Argo team, watched them grow, and seen the impact they’ve made. It is disappointing, and it is unfortunate, and their absence will be felt in Pittsburgh and in the larger AV industry.
But I also want to be clear that this is not a signal that a future with self-driving technology isn’t real or imminent. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Waymo recently announced the expansion of their robotaxi fleet to LA. Cruise is charging for their driverless robotaxi rides in San Francisco.
And as for us? We’ve long believed that long-haul trucking is the best way to enter the market, and that it will be the first vertical within the autonomous vehicle industry to generate significant revenue, so that has been our focus.
We’re making autonomous freight deliveries every day for pilot customers like FedEx, Werner, Schneider, and Uber Freight. In fact, if you got a FedEx parcel that got shipped from Houston, there’s a chance that it sat in one of our trucks on the way to you.
We have close, collaborative partnerships with PACCAR and Volvo Trucks (which together produce almost 50% of all Class 8 trucks in the United States) and with major transportation leaders like Toyota and Uber. These companies see the long-term value of autonomous vehicles, and our independence gives them the ability to invest in it without shouldering the cost of developing this technology alone.
Finally, we have a clear path, plan, and timeline to market.
I have been in this industry for nearly two decades, and in this moment, right now, I believe we have never been closer to delivering self-driving vehicles to the world. More importantly, this technology has never been needed more. Over 40,000 people died in car crashes last year, up 10% from the previous year. Trucking is an over $700B business, moving over 72% of the nation’s freight by weight, but we just don’t have enough drivers to move it all. It’s also dangerous – there are almost half a million accidents involving trucks a year. Self-driving technology is not a science project. It is one of the next major technological innovations that will transform our society—for the better—and we are making consistent, steady, and exciting progress towards getting there.
So, with that, I turn you back to The Dashboard and to some meaningful updates from the last month—including more detail about how our autonomous trucking service Aurora Horizon will work for customers when we launch and how we train the Aurora Driver to safely respond to pedestrians.
Oh, and one more thing. We’re hiring! We have over 160 positions available across the country, and we need a team with the expertise, commitment, and passion for taking on this once-in-a-generation opportunity head-on. If that sounds like you and you want to be on the team that gets this technology on our roads and transforms transportation, please come join us.
—Chris Urmson, CEO, Aurora