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Ford plans to have an SAE level 4 autonomous vehicle on the road by 2021 (Photo: Ford)

Ford Motor plans to invest 1 billion dollars in artificial intelligence by acquiring a majority stake in Argo AI.

The artificial intelligence startup will continue to operate independently from Ford, but the carmaker said Argo AI will play an important role in the development of autonomous-driving technologies.

"We believe that investing in Argo AI will create significant value for our shareholders by strengthening Ford’s leadership in bringing self-driving vehicles to market in the near term and by creating technology that could be licensed to others in the future,” Ford Motor CEO Mark Fields said in a statement.

Ford plans to combine its current team of developers working on autonomous vehicles with robotics experts from Argo AI.

Argo AI was founded by former Google and Uber executives. The company is run by Bryan Salesky, CEO, and Peter Rander, COO. Both are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center. They previously worked on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively.

Ford and other carmakers are investing heavily in artificial intelligence and machine learning, which are seen as key disciplines for autonomous driving technologies. Ford plans to have an autonomous vehicle on the market by 2021.

One of the problems the auto industry is facing is the need to adapt to the much faster development culture of the high-tech sector. Ford said the combination of Argo AI's agility and its own automotive skillset would help advance its autonomous vehicle program.

Raj Nair, Ford's CTO said: “This open collaboration is unlike any other partnership ”“ allowing us to benefit from combining the speed of a startup with Ford’s strengths in scaling technology, systems integration and vehicle design.”

Argo AI is expected to have more than 200 staff by year end. They are based in the company's Pittsburgh headquarters and at engineering hubs in Michigan and California.