Apple acquires self-driving car startup Drive.ai [u]

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 25
Apple on Tuesday confirmed the acquisition of self-driving shuttle and car kit startup Drive.ai, with the tech giant snagging dozens of employees, cars and other assets as part of the purchase.




Drive.ai, which raised $77 million in funding and was valued at approximately $200 million two years ago, filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) (PDF link) with California's Employment Development Department alerting the state agency that it will shutter operations effective Friday, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

As Drive.ai prepares to dismantle, Apple in recent weeks picked up a few hardware and software engineers from the soon-to-close self-driving car firm, the report said. At least five former Drive.ai data, software and systems engineers have updated their respective LinkedIn profiles to note employment by Apple. The changes arrived this month, with four employees now listed as working on "special projects" at the tech giant.

Apple later said it acquired the startup in a statement to Axios. The deal nets Apple dozens of employees, most of whom work in engineering and product design, the report said. Beyond talent, Apple's acquisition also gets the company Drive.ai's cars and other unspecified assets. Terms of the agreement have not been revealed.

Drive.ai's notice was filed on June 12, exactly one week after a report was published claiming the company was in talks to sell itself to Apple as part of an "acqui-hire." At the time, an Apple spokesperson neither confirmed nor denied the buy, suggesting negotiations were fluid.

After significantly scaling back development of a self-driving car project dubbed "Project Titan" in 2016, Apple is seemingly reinvigorating the program by infusing the team with new recruits from competing firms. Most recently, the company poached powertrain expert Michael Schwekutsch from Tesla.

Update: Updated to reflect Apple's statement on the acquisition from Axios.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,334member
    Now that makes more sense than paying tens of millions of dollars for an entire company. Just hire the best engineers.
  • Reply 2 of 16
    Now that makes more sense than paying tens of millions of dollars for an entire company. Just hire the best engineers.
    Updated story. Looks like they went with the route that makes less sense. Lol! 
    Soli1STnTENDERBITSCarnageblastdoorchemengin1
  • Reply 3 of 16
     
    Now that makes more sense than paying tens of millions of dollars for an entire company. Just hire the best engineers.
    Updated story. Looks like they went with the route that makes less sense. Lol! 
    "That's what I meant.  This choice made more sense.  I really didn't think the other choice made sense." - random overzealous fan

    Breaking update:  Apple doesn't buy entire company, just the building and the patents.

    "This is what really really makes sense.  That's all Apple needed was the building and the patents.  Only Apple could do this." - same rando confirming to another rando fan

    Breaking update 2:  Apple decides they want the employees and the building but not the patents.

    "Yup.  I thought this was going to be their big move all along.  Why would Apple need someone else's patents.  - same rando.  other rando starting to give side eye.

    Breaking update 3:  Apple says patents it all it needs.  The rest is useless.

    "Aww yeah.  Apple playing 3D chess while the rest are playing checkers.  Just making their patents stronger.  Building that war chest. - rando by himself.  other dude left 

    Of course I'm joking but there is a fair contingent of fans who act just like that.   :D  :D
    edited June 25 gatorguyDAalsethdedgeckoIreneWblastdoorfranklinjackconbeowulfschmidtavon b7longpathchemengin1
  • Reply 4 of 16
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,365member
    The number of people who keep claiming Apple isn’t working on a self-driving car are starting to dwindle. You guys still around..?
    edited June 25 lolliver
  • Reply 5 of 16
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,650member
    Drive was in the business of retrofitting existing cars to *become* self-driving cars. This is almost precisely what I and others have been saying Apple’s been up to. There’s no Apple iCar, and I continue to think there won’t be one.
    longpath
  • Reply 6 of 16
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,046member
    cornchip said:
    The number of people who keep claiming Apple isn’t working on a self-driving car are starting to dwindle. You guys still around..?
    Apple Car = nope
    Apple software in car = yep

    What we have here is self-driving cars are a ridiculously long project, and most of the startups with that goal will go belly up.  Apple’s getting assets/people they want on the cheap.

    I don’t think self-driving cars are a good idea, but driver assists are valuable.  So is data on driving habits, data, and up sell opportunities.

    Google paved the way with Google Maps... it’s free, but is it really?  
    longpath
  • Reply 7 of 16
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,359member
    cornchip said:
    The number of people who keep claiming Apple isn’t working on a self-driving car are starting to dwindle. You guys still around..?
    Apple Car = nope
    Apple software in car = yep

    What we have here is self-driving cars are a ridiculously long project, and most of the startups with that goal will go belly up.  Apple’s getting assets/people they want on the cheap.

    I don’t think self-driving cars are a good idea, but driver assists are valuable.  So is data on driving habits, data, and up sell opportunities.

    Google paved the way with Google Maps... it’s free, but is it really?  
    I used Google maps instead of Apple Maps the other day to check out some information in the Plaka in Athens.  I've been inundated with emails selling everything under the sun related to Greece and Athens ever since ... so no it's not free.
    longpath
  • Reply 8 of 16
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,046member
    MacPro said:
    cornchip said:
    The number of people who keep claiming Apple isn’t working on a self-driving car are starting to dwindle. You guys still around..?
    Apple Car = nope
    Apple software in car = yep

    What we have here is self-driving cars are a ridiculously long project, and most of the startups with that goal will go belly up.  Apple’s getting assets/people they want on the cheap.

    I don’t think self-driving cars are a good idea, but driver assists are valuable.  So is data on driving habits, data, and up sell opportunities.

    Google paved the way with Google Maps... it’s free, but is it really?  
    I used Google maps instead of Apple Maps the other day to check out some information in the Plaka in Athens.  I've been inundated with emails selling everything under the sun related to Greece and Athens ever since ... so no it's not free.
    My point exactly.  Google and Apple don’t give a flip about selling cars, that’s not where the money is.  Both companies are pursuing something entirely different. 
  • Reply 9 of 16
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,117moderator
    MacPro said:
    cornchip said:
    The number of people who keep claiming Apple isn’t working on a self-driving car are starting to dwindle. You guys still around..?
    Apple Car = nope
    Apple software in car = yep

    What we have here is self-driving cars are a ridiculously long project, and most of the startups with that goal will go belly up.  Apple’s getting assets/people they want on the cheap.

    I don’t think self-driving cars are a good idea, but driver assists are valuable.  So is data on driving habits, data, and up sell opportunities.

    Google paved the way with Google Maps... it’s free, but is it really?  
    I used Google maps instead of Apple Maps the other day to check out some information in the Plaka in Athens.  I've been inundated with emails selling everything under the sun related to Greece and Athens ever since ... so no it's not free.
    My point exactly.  Google and Apple don’t give a flip about selling cars, that’s not where the money is.  Both companies are pursuing something entirely different. 

    The car of the future is already here.  It's called a Smartphone.  Think about it.  If you were to clear the slate, look at the modern world and ask yourself, how would I design a transportation system given existing and soon-to-come technologies, like autonomous driving, real-time availability scheduling. Route optimization, etc, no way you'd conclude there should be a car, or two, in every garage.  You'd create a technology/software infrastructure to allow individuals to call up the transportation they need (car, truck, van, etc) on-demand.  And it would show up wherever they are, or wherever they are going to be, when it's needed.  You'd be able to schedule transportation in advance, like the airport shuttles of yesteryear that you'd schedule a week in advance. Über pretty much killed that business, I expect.  


    Or schedule recurring transportation, such as to take the kids to soccer practice and back.  In this case the transportation technology system might suggest a shared van service, that knows the schedules for local after school sports practice and offers up and constructs pick-up and drop-off routes based upon participation; a regular route to gather up the kids and deliver them.  Accommodation for security will be considered when children are being transported without accompanying parents, such as real-time tracking and a constant open line of communication, both audio and video streaming from the vehicle to parent's smartphones. 


    The specific vehicle that arrives can be determined by number of passengers, whether you'll be transporting something large or just yourself, etc.  The notion of owning, maintaining, accommodating parking requirements of, insuring, etc, a personal vehicle, for many people, has already begun to feel like 'the old paridigm.'  


    To create this infrastructure, you need route optimization software, that incorporates the real-time whereabouts of all vehicles in a local fleet. You need scheduling software.  You need to deal with remaining charge/range of each vehicle out in service to know when a vehicle can accommodate an additional requested or scheduled route without running out of juice.  You need to accommodate stand-by, where the vehicle drops someone off at a location and is requested to stand-by for an indeterminate time while the person goes into a store or bank to run an errand.  In short, you need a very sophisticated set of interacting technologies to accommodate smooth operation of a transportation network that provides near immediate responsiveness to a population's constantly fluctuating needs.


    If I were Tim Cook, this is exactly the way I'd envision the future, and this is what I'd set out to create.  It's not so much about constructing vehicles yourself, but about getting sign-in from all vehicle manufacturers such that their vehicles can work within the envisioned transportation network.  And that means that people who do own vehicles could lend them into their local autonomous transportation fleet in order to earn money (this has already been suggested by Musk and makes sense for a maker of vehicles to accommodate, as it helps him sell more Teslas direct to consumers).  It means that new rental fleets will simply be staged in large metro areas, with one or more depots that the vehicles come back to for recharging, maintenance, cleaning, etc.  And that means that there's a path forward for the rental companies, because they already have staging areas for their existing fleets.  The big picture can be accommodated during a transition phase from the world we have today to a world where almost all transportation is shared and autonomous.  


    Extend this to trucking, inter-city bussing, etc, and the whole thing becomes a future that Apple could play a major role in developing.  Without ever producing, on their own, a single vehicle.


    Also key to this is that everything Apple needs to do to revolutionize transportation does not require Apple to do any work on autonomous driving, nor does Apple need to build a single vehicle model.  Nope, Apple will want to own the end user interaction used to summon and schedule transportation, and it'll want to own the route optimization algorithms and server side scheduling and dispatch.  And take a cut of every ride.  


    There will need to be some tech in each car to pick up the user interaction that began on a rider's smartphone or Watch, once the car arrives to pick up the rider.  The car will need a voice interface to interact with the rider.  The car will need to constantly ping its whereabouts to the dispatch and scheduling servers, along with its charge level, so that the dispatch system can determine its next pick up and determine when it needs to exit the active fleet and return to a nearby depot for recharging or maintenance.  The car will need to contain sensors, like internal cameras, to monitor for left-behind packages, spilled coffee, etc, and report appropriately to riders or to dispatch.  The car will need streaming audio/video capabilities to stream to parents when children are riding without adult accompaniment.  All of this can be designed as a set of interfaces that automakers can implement in order to be compatible with Apple's dispatch and routing servers, and the vehicles might also be required to utilize Apple's mapping infrastructure.  


    Once verified as able to serve a ride request, the car is handed details on the location of the rider, and the rider's destination, and it can then utilize its own autonomous driving capabilities to serve the request.  And all of this can integrate both driverless and human driven vehicles into the same service.  So as vehicles are developed that are licensed for autonomous operation, these can be added to an existing Uber-like fleet of human driven vehicles, both serving together to form a centrally requested and directed/dispatched swarm serving a metrolitan area.  Eventually, the human driven vehicles would all be replaced with autonomous vehicles, and the future will have arrived

    longpathfastasleepFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 10 of 16
    MacPro said:
    cornchip said:
    The number of people who keep claiming Apple isn’t working on a self-driving car are starting to dwindle. You guys still around..?
    Apple Car = nope
    Apple software in car = yep

    What we have here is self-driving cars are a ridiculously long project, and most of the startups with that goal will go belly up.  Apple’s getting assets/people they want on the cheap.

    I don’t think self-driving cars are a good idea, but driver assists are valuable.  So is data on driving habits, data, and up sell opportunities.

    Google paved the way with Google Maps... it’s free, but is it really?  
    I used Google maps instead of Apple Maps the other day to check out some information in the Plaka in Athens.  I've been inundated with emails selling everything under the sun related to Greece and Athens ever since ... so no it's not free.
    I've never heard of this. Did you give out your address to anyone? And which mail provider are you with? I use Google Maps and Gmail and occasionally get two "emails" labelled as ads in my promotions folder but I've never seen actual spam that Google would have prompted. Anything spammy goes into my spam folder so it would be self defeating. Perhaps it's because I'm in Europe or I'm not as interesting as a target.
    gatorguy
  • Reply 11 of 16
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,945member
    chasm said:
    Drive was in the business of retrofitting existing cars to *become* self-driving cars. This is almost precisely what I and others have been saying Apple’s been up to. There’s no Apple iCar, and I continue to think there won’t be one.
    I’ll stick with my earlier guess — Apple will “make” (really, design in California) a self-driving car, but they won’t sell it to you and me. Instead, they will sell transportation as a service, basically a classy version of Uber.

    Incidentally,  there is an important technological advantage to only offering self driving cars in the context of an Uber-like service.  It will be a long time before autonomous vehicles reach level five – – and it might not ever happen.  Self driving cars operating within geofenced areas, however, might be realistic in a few years. In the context of an Uber-like service, the geo-fencing is less of an issue because the service can just decline requests that would go out of the fence.  Or, instead of declining the request, the service could dispatch a human driver, or maybe even have a human remote control the vehicle.
    StrangeDaysfastasleep
  • Reply 12 of 16
    I think once iPhone has 6 camera lens, it's ready for self-driving.... for any car.
  • Reply 13 of 16
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,359member
    blastdoor said:
    chasm said:
    Drive was in the business of retrofitting existing cars to *become* self-driving cars. This is almost precisely what I and others have been saying Apple’s been up to. There’s no Apple iCar, and I continue to think there won’t be one.
    I’ll stick with my earlier guess — Apple will “make” (really, design in California) a self-driving car, but they won’t sell it to you and me. Instead, they will sell transportation as a service, basically a classy version of Uber.

    Incidentally,  there is an important technological advantage to only offering self driving cars in the context of an Uber-like service.  It will be a long time before autonomous vehicles reach level five – – and it might not ever happen.  Self driving cars operating within geofenced areas, however, might be realistic in a few years. In the context of an Uber-like service, the geo-fencing is less of an issue because the service can just decline requests that would go out of the fence.  Or, instead of declining the request, the service could dispatch a human driver, or maybe even have a human remote control the vehicle.
    I am of the same opinion regarding an upscale (and safer) Uber style system.  The question for me is will it be run by Apple which isn't in their wheelhouse really or sell fleets to companies that want to compete with Uber  or even to Uber or even rental companies such as Hertz and Avis?
  • Reply 14 of 16
    Sanctum1972Sanctum1972 Posts: 94unconfirmed, member
    blastdoor said:
    chasm said:
    Drive was in the business of retrofitting existing cars to *become* self-driving cars. This is almost precisely what I and others have been saying Apple’s been up to. There’s no Apple iCar, and I continue to think there won’t be one.
    I’ll stick with my earlier guess — Apple will “make” (really, design in California) a self-driving car, but they won’t sell it to you and me. Instead, they will sell transportation as a service, basically a classy version of Uber.

    Incidentally,  there is an important technological advantage to only offering self driving cars in the context of an Uber-like service.  It will be a long time before autonomous vehicles reach level five – – and it might not ever happen.  Self driving cars operating within geofenced areas, however, might be realistic in a few years. In the context of an Uber-like service, the geo-fencing is less of an issue because the service can just decline requests that would go out of the fence.  Or, instead of declining the request, the service could dispatch a human driver, or maybe even have a human remote control the vehicle.
    That's the most realistic case scenario. It won't definitely be for the masses but from what I understand Project Titan is supposed to be for their own workers as a self driving shuttle system. That's the first step. And then it's an Uber-like service. But it will definitely not replace consumer owned vehicle markets until for many years as I see it happening within 50-100 years, but NOT in the next 5-10 years. It has tons of legal and regulatory oversight red tape to go through to be available for the masses and Apple doesn't have the manufacturing infrastructure to handle it like Ford, Honda, Mitsubishi, etc do. Even though Tesla has been around for some time, others will follow suit. 

    And folks who think Apple is building a car for the masses to be bought and owned are definitely smoking which had been the line of thought for the last couple of years in discussion forums here and there. 
    edited June 26 ravnorodom
  • Reply 15 of 16
    AppleExposedAppleExposed Posts: 1,407unconfirmed, member
    I don't see why Apple can't build a car. We know they've had interest and potentially been working on one since Steve Jobs was CEO.
  • Reply 16 of 16
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,767member
    I don't see why Apple can't build a car. We know they've had interest and potentially been working on one since Steve Jobs was CEO.
    Because actual production of a car is much more expensive.    I think Apples just keeping this around in hopes of picking up Tesla in Auction.   The real challenge is the high volume production of Solid State batteries which would provide twice the power for the same weight/volume as LithiumIion batteries.   I hope Apple is doing their own R&D into that and not leaving it to third party companies like LG Chem, CATL, and Panasonic.    Solid State batteries would be a big feature first in phones and then in electric Cars. 
    chemengin1
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