Apple mulls joining reported SoftBank-backed investment in Didi to avoid dilution of exist...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2017
Japanese tech giant SoftBank is reportedly in talks to back a $6 billion investment in Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi Chuxing, a move that could dilute stakes of existing backers like Apple.


Apple CEO Tim Cook meets with Didi president Jean Liu in 2016. | Source: Tim Cook via Twitter


Citing sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reports Didi is considering whether or not to accept the SoftBank-backed investment as the quickly growing company balances the interests of more than 100 backers. Agreeing to the massive infusion, some six times what Apple put in last year, would naturally dilute the stakes of prior investors.

Apple, Chinese social media firm Tencent and other Didi backers are themselves thinking about joining the SoftBank investment on a pro rata basis to retain their standing, the report said.

It is unclear if the Didi investment is being led by SoftBank or the SoftBank Vision Fund, the latter being a $100 billion tech fund dedicated to burgeoning industry startups. Though the fund has yet to close, probable initial investments include $45 billion from Saudi Arabia, $25 billion from SoftBank and a number of smaller sums from a variety of tech companies.

Apple earlier this year confirmed a $1 billion investment in the Vision Fund. That Apple is said to be considering a stake in the new Didi deal suggests the investment might be led by SoftBank itself.

After successfully navigating several investment rounds, Didi is currently valued at some $34 billion, the report said. The firm is using investor money to back ambitious projects around the world, including the purchase of Uber China's assets in last summer. That particular move secured the lucrative Asian market from a move-in by the world's ride-sharing market leader, which was operating at a loss in China to gain a foothold in the region.

More recently, Didi joined other ride-sharing services in furthering self-driving car technology, a trend for the industry. Going up against the likes of Uber and Google spinoff Waymo, the Chinese company earlier this month opened an artificial intelligence lab in Mountain View, Calif., near Apple's Cupertino headquarters. Staffed by robotics and AI experts like Charlie Miller, formerly Uber's self-driving team, the lab will focus on the development of intelligent driving systems and AI-based transportation security.

Apple is also widely rumored to be working on its own self-driving vehicle in Project Titan, but progress has been hampered by unforeseen roadblocks. While the iPhone maker's autonomous vehicle branch swelled to more than a thousand employees at its peak, a round of layoffs whittled down operations severely. The Project Titan team reportedly has until the end of 2017 to prove it can move forward on its own.

Recent reports suggest Apple is turning its focus toward self-driving car software and related platforms. In October, for example, it was reported that the company poached engineers from BlackBerry's QNX to develop augmented reality car navigation systems.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 6
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,929moderator
    I still think Apple would be wise to focus on scheduling, dispatch, mapping/routing, and load balancing of fleets within each geographic area, leaving the liability risk of autonomous driving mode in the hands of the individual vehicle makers.  
    lightknightargonautSpamSandwich
  • Reply 2 of 6
    lightknightlightknight Posts: 2,312member
    I still think Apple would be wise to focus on scheduling, dispatch, mapping/routing, and load balancing of fleets within each geographic area, leaving the liability risk of autonomous driving mode in the hands of the individual vehicle makers.  
    If I had a choice, I'd go for car modules. Apple does the "inside" (UI, UX, etc) and the looks, and the car makers build the skeleton around it. Rich people get a Mercedes enclosure, less rich people get a Opel enclosure. Ideally, no Samsung modules allowed...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 6
    The actual ride hailing companies aren't really worth much, and the "self-driving" cars will only be as valuable as the software that runs them. It's also becoming more obvious that in order for the "self-driving" cars/trucks to really work, they'll have to get special treatment from the government in terms of infrastructure changes and legal changes....think priority lanes for self-driving vehicles and very limited accountability for accidents etc. 
  • Reply 4 of 6
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,341member
    I just wonder how Apple would fare (ha, no pun intended) in getting auto companies to use their software if it encompassed more than it does now. I've been reading about this, and auto companies are concerned about third parties getting info about their customers that they won't be able to get. Since Apple is notably hard fisted about sharing data, anything they may do might not get off the ground.

    and really, if they're not going to have their own car, just what is this software they're working on? Will it replace QNX, will it replace the automotive focused Linux that's gained momentum, and now controls the same percentage of cars that QNX does? If so, then Apple is developing a car OS. It has to be pointed out that neither macOS, nor iOS can work as a car OS. Car OSs are near realtime OSs, that are needed for machine control. Apple's OSs aren't designed for that purpose, so they either have to redesign iOS, most likely, for that purpose, or come up with something new.

    as car manufacturers have already expressed disinterest in that concept, I don't see how Apple could sell it.

    in addition, we don't know of any "unforeseen roadblocks" in Apple's Titan projects, except for a few highly placed engineers and project managers leaving. It's likely that Apple simply decided that they didn't want to bother with all the required regulations, and possible responsibility of manufacturing realities. But, it's also been pointed out that Magna, the custom auto manufacturer, who has designed, and even manufactured cars for companies such as BMW, would navigate that for Apple. Manga has been working directly with Apple in this project, and Apple employs a number of high level Magna employees, or did. So it's possible that Magna would have been highly involved in the design of Apple's car, and even building it.

    but, it's all speculation, as nobody, no matter what they may claim, knows what's going on at Apple about this, or much anything else.
    edited March 2017
  • Reply 5 of 6
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    melgross said:
    I just wonder how Apple would fare (ha, no pun intended) in getting auto companies to use their software if it encompassed more than it does now. I've been reading about this, and auto companies are concerned about third parties getting info about their customers that they won't be able to get. Since Apple is notably hard fisted about sharing data, anything they may do might not get off the ground.

    and really, if they're not going to have their own car, just what is this software they're working on? Will it replace QNX, will it replace the automotive focused Linux that's gained momentum, and now controls the same percentage of cars that QNX does? If so, then Apple is developing a car OS. It has to be pointed out that neither macOS, nor iOS can work as a car OS. Car OSs are near realtime OSs, that are needed for machine control. Apple's OSs aren't designed for that purpose, so they either have to redesign iOS, most likely, for that purpose, or come up with something new.

    as car manufacturers have already expressed disinterest in that concept, I don't see how Apple could sell it.

    in addition, we don't know of any "unforeseen roadblocks" in Apple's Titan projects, except for a few highly placed engineers and project managers leaving. It's likely that Apple simply decided that they didn't want to bother with all the required regulations, and possible responsibility of manufacturing realities. But, it's also been pointed out that Magna, the custom auto manufacturer, who has designed, and even manufactured cars for companies such as BMW, would navigate that for Apple. Manga has been working directly with Apple in this project, and Apple employs a number of high level Magna employees, or did. So it's possible that Magna would have been highly involved in the design of Apple's car, and even building it.

    but, it's all speculation, as nobody, no matter what they may claim, knows what's going on at Apple about this, or much anything else.
    I do think Apple would go the contract manufacturing route (that's the expertise after all), especially since it is a rising trend in the overall industry.
    Most things in a car a pretty generic, why would Apple be involved in any of them. They should concentrate on servos, battery, sensors, control systems and entertainment systems and obviously design.

    They probably would not redesign IOS, but design a specialized OS with a huge lot of distributed modules

    ----- All those modules are connected to CORE MOD
    - SENSO-MOD Interfaces with cameras, Lidar, giroscope, etc.
    - SERVO-MOD Interfaces with brakes, accelerator, steering, etc.
    - PROCESSOR-MOD (Does some heavy lifting with the huge amount of data). (Computer Vision, for example, makes sense of the data)
    - NEARBY-MOD (Collect info from the environment just outside the car (other nearby cars, the road, pedestrian carrying blue-tooth sensors, etc).
    - ME-MOD (Manage minutue of internal car functions (engine, fluids,battery, wheel speed), equivalent to ICU).
    -----------------
    - CORE-MOD (Routing sensor data and processing results,plugs-unplugs resources,ensures fallback) (there can be more than one for redundance).
                      Makes standing order decisions for the car. Say : stay in a straight line, press brakes if something blocks you.
                    - Equivalent to autonomous functions in human, or driving without thinking
    - Core MOD must have redundant fallback nodes
    ----------------- CORE-MOD connects to CAR-MOD
    - CONNECT-MOD (Collects info about environment beyond next few seconds, or environmental info (overall traffic, weather), can also piggyback user data from IOS module to connect to the Internet.
    - INTERNALS-MOD (Collects and manage internal car functions on longer scales than ME-MOD
    -----------------
    - CAR-MOD (Does all higher level decisions like routing, lane changes, vehicule consumption modes, etc) (That's like a human actually driving and not in zombie mode)
    -------------- CAR-MOD connects to IOS
    - IOS , takes car of the US facing non car functions, which in an automated car will be plentiful.

  • Reply 6 of 6
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,341member
    foggyhill said:
    melgross said:
    I just wonder how Apple would fare (ha, no pun intended) in getting auto companies to use their software if it encompassed more than it does now. I've been reading about this, and auto companies are concerned about third parties getting info about their customers that they won't be able to get. Since Apple is notably hard fisted about sharing data, anything they may do might not get off the ground.

    and really, if they're not going to have their own car, just what is this software they're working on? Will it replace QNX, will it replace the automotive focused Linux that's gained momentum, and now controls the same percentage of cars that QNX does? If so, then Apple is developing a car OS. It has to be pointed out that neither macOS, nor iOS can work as a car OS. Car OSs are near realtime OSs, that are needed for machine control. Apple's OSs aren't designed for that purpose, so they either have to redesign iOS, most likely, for that purpose, or come up with something new.

    as car manufacturers have already expressed disinterest in that concept, I don't see how Apple could sell it.

    in addition, we don't know of any "unforeseen roadblocks" in Apple's Titan projects, except for a few highly placed engineers and project managers leaving. It's likely that Apple simply decided that they didn't want to bother with all the required regulations, and possible responsibility of manufacturing realities. But, it's also been pointed out that Magna, the custom auto manufacturer, who has designed, and even manufactured cars for companies such as BMW, would navigate that for Apple. Manga has been working directly with Apple in this project, and Apple employs a number of high level Magna employees, or did. So it's possible that Magna would have been highly involved in the design of Apple's car, and even building it.

    but, it's all speculation, as nobody, no matter what they may claim, knows what's going on at Apple about this, or much anything else.
    I do think Apple would go the contract manufacturing route (that's the expertise after all), especially since it is a rising trend in the overall industry.
    Most things in a car a pretty generic, why would Apple be involved in any of them. They should concentrate on servos, battery, sensors, control systems and entertainment systems and obviously design.

    They probably would not redesign IOS, but design a specialized OS with a huge lot of distributed modules

    ----- All those modules are connected to CORE MOD
    - SENSO-MOD Interfaces with cameras, Lidar, giroscope, etc.
    - SERVO-MOD Interfaces with brakes, accelerator, steering, etc.
    - PROCESSOR-MOD (Does some heavy lifting with the huge amount of data). (Computer Vision, for example, makes sense of the data)
    - NEARBY-MOD (Collect info from the environment just outside the car (other nearby cars, the road, pedestrian carrying blue-tooth sensors, etc).
    - ME-MOD (Manage minutue of internal car functions (engine, fluids,battery, wheel speed), equivalent to ICU).
    -----------------
    - CORE-MOD (Routing sensor data and processing results,plugs-unplugs resources,ensures fallback) (there can be more than one for redundance).
                      Makes standing order decisions for the car. Say : stay in a straight line, press brakes if something blocks you.
                    - Equivalent to autonomous functions in human, or driving without thinking
    - Core MOD must have redundant fallback nodes
    ----------------- CORE-MOD connects to CAR-MOD
    - CONNECT-MOD (Collects info about environment beyond next few seconds, or environmental info (overall traffic, weather), can also piggyback user data from IOS module to connect to the Internet.
    - INTERNALS-MOD (Collects and manage internal car functions on longer scales than ME-MOD
    -----------------
    - CAR-MOD (Does all higher level decisions like routing, lane changes, vehicule consumption modes, etc) (That's like a human actually driving and not in zombie mode)
    -------------- CAR-MOD connects to IOS
    - IOS , takes car of the US facing non car functions, which in an automated car will be plentiful.

    They certainly could do that. But I keep wondering what it was that supposedly, and I use that word carefully, soured their interest in an actual vehicle. I can't believe that Apple went into it without first considering all of this. So, for then to suddenly exit that area just seems strange. They bought a few parcels of very large land, and in one case, factory space. They also long term leased at least two more very large properties, apparently for this purpose. They also either leased, or bought a share of, a large track and test facility.

    while some of this could be used for testing other manufacturers cars with Apple software, and, as you suggest, Apple sensors, etc., the rest is far more suited for pre production manufacturing of entire cars. Possibly they decided that some technology that they, or their partners, are working on, won't be ready as early as they expected, so they're cutting back until it is ready.
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