The two autonomy entrepreneurs are starting anew after Ford and Volkswagen Group pulled the plug on Argo, shutting down the startup with more than 2,000 employees worldwide. Amazon.com Inc. nearly rescued Argo last year, but pulled out of negotiations as the economy faltered and the online retail giant began shedding staff and cutting costs. Amazon isn’t an investor in the new firm, said the people familiar with the matter.
The new venture comes at a difficult time for self-driving technology. It is taking longer than many in the industry had expected for autonomous vehicles to become a viable revenue-generating business, which has led investors to flee the stocks while some incumbents struggle with ways to fund development.
Salesky and Rander, veterans of self-driving efforts at Alphabet Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc., have brought on board Brett Browning, Argo’s former chief technology officer.
In autonomous trucking, the new company would be competing with Alphabet’s Waymo, whose Via unit specializes in freight, as well as startups Aurora Innovation, Gatik AI, Waabi Innovation Inc. and TuSimple Holdings Inc.
While the promise of driverless delivery is large, success has so far been elusive. Aurora will be raising money again and has explored a sale or job cuts to keep development funds flush. Waymo has had layoffs while its parent company focuses on AI in other applications. TuSimple has been the focus of a federal investigation in relation to links with China.
The robotaxi business is also down to just a few players, with General Motors Co.’s Cruise LLC expanding into new markets along with Waymo. Another robotaxi startup, Zoox Inc., was acquired by Amazon in 2020.