"Every city represents a unique opportunity to make our self-driving system smarter because of the exposure to different road infrastructure design, driving behavior and even traffic light placement," Argo President Peter Rander said in a statement. "The collective knowledge we're gaining by operating in five very different locales is a big part of the reason why we're making great progress."
Ford plans to launch a Level 4 autonomous vehicle, without steering wheel or pedals, in 2021. It has tested a number of commercial applications, including pizza, grocery and package delivery.
Detroit is a logical test site. In addition to its proximity to Ford's headquarters, the automaker's autonomous and electric vehicle teams are in the city's Corktown neighborhood. Ford is also renovating Detroit's historic train station to be the centerpiece of an urban campus that focuses on self-driving vehicle development.
Rander said the city's roadways, which vary from wide corridors with unmarked lanes to narrow side streets with parked cars, present a unique challenge.
"Add in pop-up construction that's occurring all over the city and you've got a diverse, condensed training ground that really informs our development efforts," he said.
The news comes as Ford and Volkswagen are reportedly close on an agreement to partner on self-driving and electric vehicles.
VW CEO Herbert Diess last week said talks with Ford are "progressing well" and are close to being finalized. The tie-up is likely to include an investment in Argo. VW last week broke off ties with self-driving startup Aurora, leaving it free to invest in Argo.