Ford is creating its own standalone self-driving division

Screenshot via YouTubeA self-driving Ford vehicle.
  • Ford announced on Tuesday that it will create a separate division to manage its self-driving efforts.
  • Ford will report second-quarter earnings on Wednesday, so CEO Jim Hackett will have an opportunity to explain investment opportunities in Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC to Wall Street.
  • As with GM and its Cruise division, Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC will be able to court outside investment.

Ford is making a move that’s now familiar in the new-mobility world: setting up an independent self-driving-vehicle unit.

The division will be called Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC and will be overseen by Sherif Marakby as CEO; Marakby had been a vice-president of Ford’s self-driving and electrified initiatives.

“Ford has made tremendous progress across the self driving value chain – from technology development to business model innovation to user experience,” Ford CEO Jim Hackett said in a statement. “Now is the right time to consolidate our autonomous driving platform into one team to best position the business for the opportunities ahead.”

According to Ford, the new company will be “structured to take on third-party investment,” an indication that the 115-year-old company is paying close attention to the competition.

General Motor’s Cruise division recently announced a $US2.25-billion investment from Japan’s SoftBank, which paired with an additional $US1.1-billion investment from GM gave Cruise an $US11.5-billion valuation. (GM acquired Cruise for a total of around $US1 billion in 2016.)

Alphabet’s Waymo unit (formerly the Google Car project) is also heading toward a commercial rollout in the next 12 months, launching a fully autonomous fleet of vehicles in a ride-hailing framework. Standalone valuations for Waymo have been estimated at more than $US50 billion.

Ford AV LLCFordThe organisation of Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC.

Ford also announced that the new unit will be based at its Corktown location, which will see significant new development in an area near Downtown Detroit (Ford’s headquarters is in Dearborn, MI). The carmaker said that Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC will include an “ownership stake in Argo AI, the company’s Pittsburgh-based partner for self-driving system development,” in which the company “expects to invest $US4 billion in its AV efforts through 2023, including its $US1 billion investment in Argo AI.”

Ford will report second-quarter earnings after the bell on Wednesday, providing Hackett with an opportunity to explain Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC’s investment prospects and strategy to Wall Street.

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