Argo AI's 4th-gen self-driving car prototypes fitted with “product intent” hardware

Argo AI is a self-driving car technology company that calls both Ford and Volkswagen Group major investors. It’s based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and currently testing prototypes not only in its hometown but also in Silicon Valley, Detroit, Miami, Washington, D.C., and a few additional locations.

Argo AI has been developing self-driving technology for many years and currently on its fourth-generation prototype, which has been installed in a fleet of Ford Escape crossover SUVs for testing purposes. The fourth-generation prototypes started testing late last year and feature what the company claims is “product intent” hardware. That is, the hardware meets all price, performance, and reliability and durability targets required for commercial applications.

Much of the hardware was developed in-house and includes high-resolution cameras, lidar, radar, microphones (used to detect emergency vehicles before they enter the field of view), and inertial sensors. It also includes the powerful computer systems required to process all of the incoming data and then determine what actions to take, all within a fraction of a second.

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Argo AI self-driving car prototype

Argo AI self-driving car prototype

There are two main computer systems: a primary system and a backup system that runs in parallel to the primary system. Interestingly, the two computer systems use different detection algorithms so the backup computer has a unique perception ability, which Argo AI said improves the robustness of response in an unexpected situation. The computing systems also have independent communications pathways and power sources for added safety.

As for the software systems that will make use of all the hardware, they are still being developed. Argo AI is developing a system at Level 4 on the SAE scale of self-driving capability. This means it could control a vehicle on its own for extended periods of time, though only within set conditions. Typically, Level 4 self-driving cars are limited to areas with sufficient map data, known as geo-fencing. The end goal is a Level 5 self-driving car, which will be able to function in all conditions expected of a human driver.

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Unfortunately, Argo AI hasn’t mentioned when we’ll see its self-driving system being used in a commercial application, though Ford has hinted at introducing a trial service using Argo AI’s self-driving system in 2021.


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