Ford, Argo AI Using the Escape Hybrid SUV for Autonomous Car Service

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【Summary】Instead of choosing to use its new, all-electric and sporty Ford Mustang Mach-E, the automaker decided to use the Escape Hybrid SUV as the base for its autonomous vehicle service.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Dec 01, 2020 6:50 AM PT
Ford, Argo AI Using the Escape Hybrid SUV for Autonomous Car Service

Usually, when a technology company needs a base for its autonomous program, it relies on partnerships to make things happen. For instance, Waymo has a deal with FCA, which is why it uses Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans. Waymo also has a deal with Jaguar for its all-electric I-Pace SUVs. With Argo AI, things are a little easier. Its parent company, Ford, has a bunch of vehicles at its arsenal. So, when Argo AI needs a vehicle, it has quite a few choices.

New Platform For Autonomous Program

Earlier this week, Ford and Argo AI unveiled their latest autonomous prototype that's based on the Ford Escape Hybrid. The electrified SUV will serve as the platform for Argo AI to launch its autonomous vehicle service and act as the companies base for perfecting its self-driving technology. With the recent release of the all-electric Mustang Mach-E, we are a little surprised that Argo AI went with the Escape Hybrid.

Argo AI will use the heavily-modified Escape Hybrids to begin testing autonomous technology in multiple cities, including Washington, D.C.; Austin; Detroit; Palo Alto; Pittsburgh; and Miami. The Escape Hybrids won't replace Argo AI's current Fusion Hybrids, but will be used alongside the vehicles. Unfortunately, Ford is no longer producing the Fusion, so Argo AI had to find another vehicle if it was looking to make some changes.

"What this means is that with a well-defined architecture and platform in the Escape Hybrid, our team can continuously test and refine performance over the coming years to better prepare us for launch," said John Davis, chief engineer for Ford Autonomous Vehicles LLC, in a statement. "Everything we learn while using them can be channeled directly into our self-driving service as soon as it starts serving customers."

New SUV Comes With Upgrades

Instead of simply taking the hardware and software from the Fusion Hybrid and placing it onto the Escape Hybrid, Argo AI has made some noteworthy improvements. The SUV wears an updated LiDAR system with higher resolution cameras and more capable radar sensors. The sensor cleaning system has been given an overhaul, too, and now features forced-air cleaning chambers to ensure dirt, debris, and rain are kept off of the sensors.

Additionally, the Escape Hybrid's stout electrification system gives Argo AI the ability to improve integration and include an underfloor liquid-cooled battery design. Argo AI has also modified the Escape Hybrid's high voltage battery with more battery cells to support the total battery requirement for the self-driving system.

Earlier this year, Ford said it would delay the launch of its commercial autonomous service until 2022. Originally, the service was supposed to be introduced next year. The automaker cited the coronavirus' impact on changing customer behaviors as its reasoning for the delay. That seems like an unfortunate decision, because food and grocery delivery services have skyrocketed during the pandemic

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