Argo AI, the self-driving startup backed by Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen Group, has developed a sensor it believes will be key to commercializing autonomous transportation in cities, suburbs and on the highway.
The Pittsburgh-based company, which plans to go public as soon as this year, unveiled a lidar sensor Tuesday capable of “seeing” 400 meters (437 yards) down the road with almost photographic detail. Lidar bounces light off objects to create an image of the road ahead, providing critical information to computers that pilot next-generation technology in vehicles without human drivers.
The new sensor will be at the heart of the self-driving system that will debut on Ford’s ride-hailing and delivery vehicles next year and on VW models in the middle of the decade. Argo’s lidar could remove some roadblocks holding back more widespread adoption of driverless technology, in part by improving the visibility of other vehicles in low-light conditions.
“It really unlocks our ability to operate safely on highways and to then expand to entire metropolitan areas,” Bryan Salesky, Argo’s chief executive officer and co-founder, said in an interview. Argo is testing its technology in six U.S. cities with vehicles that shuttle both cargo and passengers, Salesky said. “We’re running multiple shifts in high-demand areas, like surface streets, and now also highways.”