Home Startups Apple Acquires Self-Driving Vehicle Startup Drive.ai

Apple Acquires Self-Driving Vehicle Startup Drive.ai

by Ivana Vojinovic

Apple Inc. confirmed its acquisition of the self-driving car startup Drive.ai yesterday.

The Silicon Valley autonomous vehicle startup filed WARN documentation with the Employment Development Department of California on June 12 announcing its closure on June 28. The news of Drive.ai shutting down was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Earlier this month, there were rumors of Apple showing interest in purchasing the AI tech company which was once valued at $200 million.

In yesterday’s statement, the creators of iPhone informed the public about their latest procurement. The value of the deal was not disclosed.

This purchase confirms Apple’s on-going interest in self-driving car software. A few years ago, the tech giant started an autonomous driving vehicle initiative of its own called Project Titan, but not much is known about it.

After the January layoffs of 200 employees who had been working on the stealthy self-driving car design, Apple found itself in need of skilled staff in the field of engineering and robotics. 

In response, it resorted to an acqui-hire, a well-known move in Silicon Valley. The term refers to a strategic buyout of smaller startups by large players in the industry with the sole purpose of acquiring their engineers.

Even though the shuttle firm had been struggling financially and looking for a buyer since February, its talent pool is undeniable. Drive.ai was founded in Mounting View, CA in 2015 by a team of Stanford University graduates who worked under the supervision of the acclaimed AI expert Andrew Ng.

In its early years, the company received quite a lot of attention and capital. According to CrunchBase data, the artificial intelligence startup raised $77 million in venture capital from backers such as New Enterprise Associates, GGV Capital, Northern Light Venture Capital, HOF Capital, Nvidia GPU Ventures. It was last valued at $200 million in June 2017. 

Before Apple acquired it, Drive.ai had been running a pilot program in Arlington, TX, offering on-demand service to the general public free of charge. Since October 2018, the interested citizens were able to order a self-driven vehicle via Drive.ai mobile app or by using one of the kiosks located across the city.

Adrian Fine, director of communications and policy at Drive.ai, gave no statement to the media about the closure.

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