Ford, VW seek buyer for Argo AI lidar device • TechCrunch | Rare Techy


Ford and Volkswagen are trying to squeeze the remaining value out of Argo AI, the autonomous vehicle startup that the two automakers invested billions in before abruptly shutting it down last week. One of the main elements of the block: Argo Lidar, the 80-person team and the lidar technology they developed, according to sources familiar with the company’s slacking.

Argo AI was barely a year old when it acquired Princeton Lightwave, a lidar startup in Princeton, New Jersey, in October 2017. The Ford-backed acquisition was lauded years later as helping to provide the technology key to the Argo’s fully autonomous driving. system.

Lidar, a light detection and ranging radar that measures distance using laser light to create a highly accurate 3D map of the world, is considered by most in the industry to be a critical sensor needed to safely deploy autonomous vehicles on a commercial scale.

The team, still based in Princeton, developed medium- and long-range lidar sensors.

Argo has said that the long-range lidar has the ability to see up to 400 meters with high resolution, photorealistic quality, and the ability to detect dark and distant objects with low reflectivity. In May 2021, Argo CEO and co-founder Bryan Salesky told TechCrunch that the lidar sensor was designed to be cost-effective and manufactured at scale, two factors important to any company trying to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology.

Argo Lidar point cloud

Argo Lidar point cloud. Authors of pictures: Argo AI

LG Innotek, a South Korean electronics component manufacturer, began manufacturing lidar equipment for Argo this year. Sources say companies in other verticals — outside of the AV world, that is — have shown interest in buying Argo Lidar sensors. Whether any of these interested parties will jump to buy the entire lidar team is unclear.

Meanwhile, some of Argo’s 2,000 global employees are getting offers from Ford and VW. Together, the two automakers invested $3.6 billion in Argo — $2 billion in cash and $1.6 billion in value when it took over VW’s autonomous intelligent driving subsidiary. It became its own entity called Argo AI GmbH.

VW plans to bring Munich-based Argo AI GmbH, an office that employs more than 200 people, many of whom were formerly part of AID, back into the company. VW also offers jobs to about 100 former Argo employees in the U.S., suggesting the automaker is looking to establish operations in the state.

According to the sources, several hundred employees are being offered positions at Ford.


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