Ford turbocharged its autonomous ambitions earlier this month by forming a new alliance with Volkswagen Group, the world’s largest automaker, to develop self-driving cars. VW agreed to contribute $2.6 billion to Argo, giving that autonomous startup a $7 billion valuation. The move has vaulted Ford and VW into the pantheon of self-driving leaders along with Waymo and GM Cruise.
Yet, Ford’s track record with tech acquisitions is mixed. Last week, Ford wrote down nearly the entire $182 million investment it made in Pivotal Software, a cloud computing startup, and earlier this year it shut down Chariot, a ride-hailing shuttle service it acquired in 2016 for $65 million.
Visintainer insists this acquisition will be different because Quantum has a clear mission to create simulations and robotic controls that will guide Ford’s autonomous taxis and self-driving delivery vehicles.
“We know exactly where they’re going to fit into our business and how they’re going to help us move our business forward,” Visintainer said. “They’re not a startup; they’re an established company with a proven track record. We already have growth plans for them.”
Those plans call for Ford to leave Quantum Signal alone for the most part. Ford said it won’t change the company’s name and isn’t making Quantum staffers vacate their vintage high school, where they store equipment in old student lockers that line the hallways and have been known to use the gymnasium to conduct field tests. The small company will still operate independently, with its own human resources department, and continue to be run by co-founder Mitchell Rohde.
“One of the things we found attractive about Quantum is the culture and how they attract the type of people who wouldn’t necessarily come to Ford,” Visintainer said. “We said, ‘This would be a really good fit for the company, but they’d be a really good fit being Quantum, not being Ford.’”