Amazon.com Inc. emerged as a potential savior for Argo AI, the now-defunct startup backed by two of the world’s biggest automakers, before the deal fell apart because of a sputtering economy, concerns about control and flagging faith in fully autonomous driving.
The online retailer was prepared to invest several hundred million dollars into Argo last spring, according to people familiar with the matter who disclosed Amazon’s involvement for the first time. Amazon planned to use Argo’s self-driving technology to automate some of the electric delivery vans it’s buying from Rivian Automotive Inc., setting up a test fleet in multiple U.S. cities.
Argo’s key backers -- Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen Group -- were eager to attract a third partner to Argo to help shoulder the high cost of developing self-driving technology, the people said. Recently departed VW CEO Herbert Diess even traveled to the U.S. to meet with Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos earlier this year to discuss the deal.