For the second time in one month, a local autonomous vehicle company released new safety updates on its tech. It’s another sign of a future public offering.
Earlier this year, Argo AI executives shared that they were mulling over plans to take the company public. Though news on that has been quiet since founder and CEO Bryan Salesky first mentioned the plans, there’s reason to think Argo might be preparing to file its S-1 in the first or second quarter of the new year.
Similarly to fellow autonomous vehicle company Aurora Innovation ahead of its SPAC deal in November, Argo has released a slew of new announcements on the safety of its technology, likely in an effort to build more public trust before launching an IPO. At the start of this month, the company shared safety guidelines on AV interactions with cyclists. And yesterday, it followed that up with a third-party confirmation of Argo’s conformity to the procedures and requirements of the Autonomous Vehicle Safety Consortium and SAE International’s J3018 standards for safe test driving of autonomous vehicles.
“Safety is the foundational value at Argo,” said Salesky in a press release on the news. “When testing autonomous vehicles, we want to ensure the safety of not only our employees, but also the local residents with whom we share the roads. There are no shortcuts when it comes to developing safety-critical products.”
Though Argo and most other autonomous vehicle companies already perform their own safety testing, this third party confirmation of that data from AV safety certification organization TÜV SÜD is likely an effort to assuage consumer concerns about having this extremely disruptive tech on the road in the very near future. This independent audit is also not required by the industry. But with this new assurance, potential investors might feel more confident knowing the Argo is conforming to the top industry standards.
“In the United States there currently are no statutory requirements for third-party assessment prior to permission being issued to test automated vehicles on public roads. The fact that Argo still approached TÜV SÜD for assessment is a clear demonstration of its commitment to autonomous vehicle safety, and its trust in our expertise in the autonomous vehicle field,” said Christian Gnandt, VP of automated driving at TÜV SÜD, in a statement. “We were very happy to work with Argo and to have the opportunity to draw on our extensive knowledge in this field and also expand our experience at the same time.”
Among the practices assessed by TÜV SÜD were the company’s test specialist hiring and training processes, daily mission preparations by those specialists, and post-mission protocols and vehicle return by the specialists. So, validating these practices also validates Argo’s test operations.
While not a full endorsement of its autonomous vehicle technology, the approval from TÜV SÜD demonstrates that vehicle test drivers are well equipped to operate AVs and step in when needed. It may seem like a small step, but the consumer comfort that comes from knowing the test vehicles are safe will help normalize the sight of autonomous vehicles on the road, paving the way for upcoming commercialization of Argo’s platform.
Beyond that, this news is an indication that Argo will likely be releasing more updates on its product, partnerships or other domains of its business in the new year. Looking ahead to 2022, this company is one to watch for big financial moves.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.