What Argo AI Going Driverless Means For Our Future

A white Ford Escape Hybrid SUV from Argo AI technology is seen on a driverless ride in Austin, Texas
By Brett Browning, Executive Vice President of Product Development and Chief Technology Officer

I’ve ridden in Argo AI test vehicles countless times, but I’ll never forget my ride in a driverless Argo AV on public roads in Austin.

I’m so proud of our team for delivering Argo’s first driverless rides — not only on our test track, but now out in the communities in which we’ve been testing our technology for the last several years. As we announced today, Argo began driverless operations in daytime traffic on public roads in Miami, Florida, and Austin, Texas — becoming the first AV developer on record to announce driverless operations in the heart of two major American cities.

This moment would not have been possible without all of Argo’s devoted, hardworking, and incredibly focused employees across all departments. Everyone had a role to play in building our company to the point that we could incubate, design, test, and safely deploy driverless vehicles in dense and dynamic urban environments.

We’ve always said we’d launch driverless when we’re ready. It has been an intense five years of development, research, iteration and collaboration that has just flown by.  

We engineers can sometimes be so methodical and focused on what’s next to solve, that we fail to see the big picture. For Argo, that big picture is a clear pathway to scale our operations. Our operations in Miami and Austin remind us that we are leading the way on this path.

Back in 2016, when we started the company from scratch, we had a vision of making driverless vehicles safe and accessible in cities around the world, and that meant focusing on being able to scale the technology to work in all those cities. 

We believed then, and still do, that the principles that we built the company on have put us in a winning position to do just that:

  • Safety is the foundational value of the company. There is nothing more important to us.
  • Autonomy is a robotics product. It is software and hardware in a system that solves a need. It is artificial intelligence and manufacturing. It is systems engineering and functional safety. It requires testing in simulation and in the real world.
  • Design for scale today, versus figuring it out tomorrow.
  • Build a business, not just a technology.

Argo is able to scale because we have marshaled an extraordinary amount of data from diverse use cases and locations –  as I’ve written before about the “secret” behind scaling. We’ve focused on analyzing real-world learnings from operating in the busiest neighborhoods of eight cities on two continents, facing complex traffic scenarios, including unprotected turns and intersections with occlusions, cyclists, and people walking outside crosswalks. We also analyzed seemingly endless data to optimize day and nighttime driving, since middle- and last-mile deliveries tend to happen during the day, and rideshares span day and night. 

We’ve created an ecosystem of products and services and already deployed them with our pilot partners that provide everything that a large or small business would need to add autonomous vehicles to their ridesharing or goods delivery service – at the touch of a button. 

We designed, built, tested, and are now manufacturing, at increasing scale, our own lidar sensor, one we believe to be the most capable long-range and low-reflectivity-detecting lidar in production today.

And we’ve developed a playbook of practices and tools to operationalize our mapping of dense, urban and suburban miles so we can, in just weeks, expand footprints in existing and new markets.

This is about creating a technology platform that enables better ridesharing and goods delivery services – in order to improve the lives of millions. By better, we mean more affordable and accessible, safer and more enjoyable. But to achieve those objectives, we have to be a good business, and to make a good business, we need scale.

Headlines marking technical milestones will come and go, but what I’m most proud of is we’ve got the people, the processes and the products to come together as a powerful and rapidly growing business. So today, we’ll celebrate going driverless. Tomorrow we push on to the next technical milestone and our ultimate goal: to launch the product at scale.