Ford and Volkswagen are trying to squeeze any remaining value out of Argo AI, the autonomous vehicle startup the two automakers invested billions in before abruptly shutting it down last week. One of the primary items on the block: Argo Lidar, an 80-person team and the lidar tech they developed.
Argo AI was barely a year old when they acquired lidar startup Princeton Lightwave in October 2017. The acquisition, backed by Ford, was hailed years later as helping to provide a key piece of technology in Argo’s full self-driving system. The team, based in Princeton, New Jersey, developed medium- and long-range lidar sensors.
Argo has said the long-range lidar could see 400 meters away with high-resolution photorealistic quality and the ability to detect dark and distant objects with low reflectivity. In May 2021, Argo CEO and cofounder Bryan Salesky told TechCrunch that the lidar sensor was developed to be affordable and manufactured at scale, two factors that matter for any company trying to commercialize autonomous vehicle technology.
LG Innotek, a South Korean electronics components manufacturer, began manufacturing the lidar units for Argo this year. Sources say there has been interest from companies outside of the AV world in buying Argo Lidar’s sensors. Whether any of these interested parties will jump at buying the entire lidar team is unclear. Meanwhile, some of Argo’s 2,000 global workers are getting offers from Ford and VW. Combined, the two automakers invested $3.6bn in Argo. VW plans to reabsorb the Munich-based operations of Argo AI—an office with more than 200 people, many of whom previously were part of AID. VW is also offering jobs to about 100 former Argo employees based in the USA, which suggests the automaker is keen to set up North American operations.