Ford Backs Startup Autonomic, Pursues Investments in Mobility Services

  • Natalie Mattila
  • March 16, 2017

New-Ford-RIC-Building-with-AV

Ford Motor Co. invested in startup autonomous software company Autonomic, just one month after investing $1 billion in Argo AI.

But artificial intelligence and autonomous software are not the only investment interests for the automaker.

Ford will “aggressively pursue” opportunities in the mobility-as-a-service marketplace, Alan Hall, Ford’s communications manager for mobility technology, autonomous vehicles, research and innovation, said.

“In Ford’s case, we see a lot of opportunity in the mobility services marketplace, and it’s a way to serve new customers and expand our business beyond the traditional business of selling cars and trucks, so we are going to aggressively pursue opportunities in that space,” Hall said.

Silicon Valley-based Autonomic, founded last summer, has been operating in “stealth,” according to a published report, and not much is known about what the company is developing — other than that it is working on software related to or for autonomous cars. Autonomic has raised $10.8 million — as of Jan. 24 —  with plans to raise up to $1 million more, according to an SEC filing.

Ford and Autonomic did not respond by press time for this story.

Ford is already familiar with Autonomic’s founders. The founders previously worked at Pivotal, a software development consulting firm, in which Ford invested $182.2 million in May 2016. Autonomic’s Chief Executive Sundeep Madra and Chief Operating Officer Amar Varma co-founded mobile app developer Xtreme Labs, according to their LinkedIn profiles, which sold to Pivotal in 2013.

Like other OEMs, Ford is interested in all aspects of the growing mobility landscape, and has already made several investments in ridesharing and self-driving technology. Ford, so far, has inked deals with Uber, and invested in startups like HD map developer Civil Maps and sensor maker Velodyn.

Back in October, Ford bought shuttle-van startup Chariot for $65 million in an all-cash deal. Chariot uses 100 Ford Transit 15-seat vans to serve 28 routes for San Francisco Bay Area commuters as an alternative to mass-transit.

Ridesharing is one example of Ford’s priorities, Hall said, and other priorities include continuing to evaluate the mobility sector, talk to startups, and aggressively develop its autonomous vehicle plans. “There’s a lot going on,” he added.

 

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