The Great Race to Autonomy: Ford, VW Tighten Partnerships
Ford and Volkswagen confirmed what many have argued for some time: the future of transportation will be electric and autonomous--and it's going to take a lot, a lot of money to get there.
At a presentation ahead of the Formula E's season-concluding races in New York City, Ford CEO Jim Hackett and Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess announced they are broadening and tightening their partnerships in some mutually beneficial areas.
For Volkswagen, which recently unceremoniously dumped self-driving darling Aurora, it will increase its investment in Ford's autonomous driving arm, Argo AI. VW will sink $2.6 billion into Argo AI, which will include its own Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID) company. AID will in effect become Argo's European headquarters. "We are putting all our resources...into this venture," said Diess. "Our focus is really putting everything into Argo."
For Ford, which has notably been viewed as throttling back some of its own electric efforts, it will adopt VW's electric vehicle platform, MEB. Based on Volkswagens modular EV platform, Ford plans to introduce its first all-electric vehicle in Europe by 2023, which is all part of its $11 billion investment in electrification through 2022.
VW said it was targeting a variety of vehicles with the platform from compacts to limos, with a range of about 340 miles.
Ford's Hackett said the company was looking toward a zero emissions future and was "committed to the Paris Climate Agreement."
VW's Diess underscored the importance of scale, hoping to get its electric platform into more vehicle to reduce overall costs. Alternatives, such as fuel cells, "may gain importance for heavy or long distance vehicles," Diess noted, "but not until the middle of the next decade."
Volkswagen acknowledged that in the electric world, the power and drive trains are becoming more and more alike. The clear view is that in the future, the differences between cars will not be in terms of horsepower or autonomy, it will be in terms of the driver/passenger experience.
"Cars will become more and more a software product," said Diess.