It’s a sad ending to the startup that emerged in 2017 armed with $1 billion led by Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker Ford. That same year saw a burst of autonomous vehicle startups, and venture funding in the space jumped from $1.1 billion to $5.2 billion between 2016 and 2017, according to Crunchbase data. The number of funding deals also increased by 39%.
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But it looks like that love is starting to fade. Ford said in a third-quarter earnings call Wednesday that Argo AI wasn’t able to attract new investors. (Argo AI raised an unknown amount of corporate financing led by Lyft back in 2021, per Crunchbase.) So Ford was shifting gears and allocating fewer resources to autonomous vehicles.
A rocky road for AV
So far in 2022, we’ve seen around $4.7 billion in venture investment for autonomous vehicles — the lowest since 2017. In fact, funding in 2022 is still more than 10% lower than 2017.
It’s too early to tell, however, if investors are pumping the brakes on self-driving technology. Funding decreased between 2019 and 2020, but saw a massive uptick in 2021 (which I’m going to call an outlier, given how much money was pumped into every sector that year). And 2022’s less-than-favorable numbers could be attributed to the economic situation that followed.
Ford says it will likely buy autonomous-vehicle technology down the road. Volkswagen, Argo AI’s other backer, pulled out of the company and will continue working with its in-house autonomous-vehicle developer CARIAD and expand its partnership with Mobileye, Intel’s autonomous-driving software that went public earlier this year.
Mobileye was valued at a little more than a quarter of the $50 billion Intel projected last year, and less than the $20 billion it predicted last week. Perhaps predictable: Earlier in October, Crunchbase News found that self-driving vehicle companies have lost a combined $41 billion in stock market valuation since 2020.
We don’t know what the future holds for autonomous vehicles. For now, Argo AI will be dismantled for parts and shared between Ford and Volkswagen.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias
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