Car manufacturing giant Ford has pledged £800m ($1bn) of funding over the next five years to artificial intelligence (AI) firm Argo.

Together, the firms will focus on developing an autonomous system for a driverless vehicle, which Ford intends to have ready for launch in 2021.

The firm currently has two autonomous vehicles licensed for testing in California, but a recent report revealed that they only covered 590 miles in 2016.

Argo, which is based in Pittsburgh, has strong foundations in the driverless car sector.

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It was founded at the end of 2016 by CEO Brian Salesky and chief operating officer Peter Rander, who led self-driving car teams at Google and Uber respectively – and these will run the Ford unit.

This investment makes Ford majority stakeholder in the firm, which has additional offices in Michigan and in Silicon Valley.

Chief executive Mark Fields said: "The next decade will be defined by the automation of the automobile, and autonomous vehicles will have as significant an impact on society as Ford's moving assembly line did 100 years ago.”