FISITA PLUS 2020 – Bryan Salesky: How ARGO AI makes it partnerships work



September 2020

Bryan Salesky, Co-Founder & CEO, Argo AI, took part in the Leadership Interview hosted by Paul Mascarenas OBE, at FISITA PLUS on Thursday 23 July. This is the third of four excerpts.


Let’s talk a little bit about Argo AI’s partnerships – clearly partnerships across the AV sector space are extremely important – but can you talk a little bit about why they are needed, are they all the same or do they have different goals, different objectives and different structures to how the teams work together?

I’ve seen a lot of different deals and partnerships over the years and I think there’s sort of a bright line between them. There’s some that are a kind of ‘get to know you’ research project, where a company will partner with whether it be an automaker or a tier 1 or someone else where it’s let’s explore together the possibilities. It’s not so much fundamental research but they’re learning programmes.

Then there’s another category of deals, which are true production programmes, where there’s a defined business model, there’s a clear go to market strategy and there’s a push to get the technology into the world.

The types of partnerships that we’ve forged with Volkswagen fall into that latter category, where we’ve really worked very hard together on what the correct business model should be, what the types of vehicles should be, and you know we’re planning out a multi-generational strategy for how the self-driving system needs to evolve and plug into the OEM’s multi-generational strategy of vehicle platforms and so it’s a massive programme and product planning exercise. It works so much better if you have a partnership where both sides can be very transparent and open with each other to make sure that you’re planning for the long run, because as this technology is still in its infancy and it’s very much going to evolve over the next couple of decades. So, those are the types of partnerships that we’ve been focused on at Argo AI.

Bryan, did you ever think about doing your own vehicle or did you always plan to partner with the automakers to bring the technology to market?

We had decided from the get-go that we would partner with the carmakers, because we felt that we would always be sort of retrofitting cars and when you do a retrofit, especially without deep involvement from engineers who built the car or designed the car, you end up with just a lot of details.

When you think about the car manufacturing process, that’s somewhere in the neighbourhood of 30,000 parts coming together into what is probably the most complex consumer product ever created, each part has been designed and thought through in terms of its function, its form and its safety. So, you have to understand what the changes you’re making and what the impact it’s going to be.

We find that working with the designers of the vehicle that’s really key to making sure this is done safely and done well.

So how early in the process are you engaging with the automakers? Is it from the design and planning stage or are you coming in later in the process?

Yeah, we’ve been really lucky in that we’ve been able to engage in a really early stage of the process, even in the planning stages, and have been able to really drive designs that make sense going from first principles around the business model and what type of work these vehicles will be doing and then driving that into every aspect of the programme, which really makes things a lot easier.

FISITA PLUS sessions were held every Thursday throughout July. Replays of all are available as follows: