Pictured are: Peter Rander, Argo AI COO; Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO; Bryan Salesky, Argo AI CEO; and Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Product Development. Salesky and Rander are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and former leaders on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively. (Photo: Business Wire)

Ford Motor Company will bank on Pittsburgh’s research talent to produce self-driving cars for the company by 2021.

Ford announced Friday it would invest $1 billion over the next five years in Argo AI, a Pittsburgh Artifical Intelligence tech startup led by two graduates of Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center.

The companies said Argo would develop an autonomous vehicle for production and its technology later could be licensed to other companies.

Argo AI will add 200 jobs this year in Pittsburgh, Michigan and California, (where Argo AI has engineering hubs), Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said in a statement released with Mayor Bill Peduto. See job posts here.

Ford’s decision recognizes the intellectual talent and work ethic available in Pittsburgh, Fitzgerald said.

“To see a traditional manufacturer like Ford, one of the Big Three, coming here to partner with Argo AI, one of our great technology companies, is exciting,” Fitzgerald said.

Uber, the San Francisco-based startup, debuted its self-driving car in Pittsburgh in September as it expanded its footprint at its Advanced Technology Center in Lawrenceville. Uber hired around 40 faculty and researchers from Carnegie Mellon and formed partnerships with automakers including Volvo. It has said it ultimately may replace many of its 1.5 million drivers with autonomous vehicles.

In addition to Uber, both Carnegie Mellon and Delphi, a global supplier of vehicle technologies, also have been developing self-driving cars.

Ford said that Argo’s founders, CEO Bryan Salesky and Chief Operating Officer Peter Rander, worked for the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively.

Fitzgerald and Peduto said the announcement reinforces Pittsburgh’s standing as a center for robotics, high-tech and advanced manufacturing companies.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently designated Pittsburgh as one of 10 testing grounds nationwide for autonomous vehicles. The Department of Defense last month said it would invest $250 million in a Carnegie Mellon advanced robotics manufacturing institute here.

“Pittsburgh continues to make global headlines on this growing industry, which stems from the hard work and brain power of our friends at Carnegie Mellon, and the many industries they continue to seed and grow throughout our region,” Peduto said.

In a statement, Argo AI said it would develop artificial intelligence, machine learning and computer vision to build safe and efficient self-driving vehicles.

“The challenges are significant, but we are a team that believes in tackling hard, meaningful problems to improve the world,” Argo said. “Our ambitions can only be realized if we are willing to partner with others and keep an open mind about how to solve problems.”

Sandra Tolliver

Sandra Tolliver is a freelance writer, editor and public relations professional in Upper St. Clair.