Founders of Defunct Argo AI Launch New Self-Driving Startup
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The founders of Argo AI, the autonomous vehicle company that was shut down last year, are launching a new self-driving business that could specialize in trucking and ride-hailing, according to people familiar with the matter.
The venture by Bryan Salesky and Pete Rander will be backed by an investment from a company that approached them about starting a full-scale AV firm, the people said. The identity of the backer wasn’t immediately clear, but the people said it’s not an automaker.
The still-unnamed startup has hired between 40 and 50 workers, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the effort is private. It will be based in Pittsburgh, which was home to Argo and is also the headquarters city for Ford Motor Co.’s new semi-autonomous-driving subsidiary, Latitude AI.
The two autonomy entrepreneurs are starting anew after Ford and Volkswagen AG pulled the plug on Argo, shutting down the startup with more than 2,000 employees worldwide. Amazon.com Inc. nearly rescued Argo last year, but pulled out of negotiations as the economy faltered and the online retail giant began shedding staff and cutting costs. Amazon isn’t an investor in the new firm, said the people familiar with the matter.
The new venture comes at a difficult time for self-driving technology. It is taking longer than many in the industry had expected for autonomous vehicles to become a viable revenue-generating business, which has led investors to flee the stocks while some incumbents struggle with ways to fund development.
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Salesky and Rander, veterans of self-driving efforts at Alphabet Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc., have brought on board Brett Browning, Argo’s former chief technology officer.
In autonomous trucking, the new company would be competing with Alphabet’s Waymo, whose Via unit specializes in freight, as well as startups Aurora Innovation, Gatik AI, Waabi Innovation Inc. and TuSimple Holdings Inc.
While the promise of driverless delivery is large, success has so far been elusive. Aurora will be raising money again and has explored a sale or job cuts to keep development funds flush. Waymo has had layoffs while its parent company focuses on AI in other applications. TuSimple had been the focus of a federal investigation in relation to links with China.
The robotaxi business is also down to just a few players, with General Motors Co.’s Cruise expanding into new markets along with Waymo. Another robotaxi startup, Zoox Inc., was acquired by Amazon in 2020.
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