Apple buys self-driving car startup Drive.ai

June 27, 2019

Technology giant Apple has purchased self-driving car startup Drive.ai just as it was preparing to close up shop.

Apple confirmed with Axios it made the purchase on Tuesday, though it's unclear what the technology company paid for the self-driving car company. Drive.ai had raised around $77 million in venture capital since its founding in 2016, but the report suggested the sale price was less than that figure. Apple's purchase isn't a traditional transaction, however.

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Apple will reportedly on the talent inside Drive.ai instead of continue to operate it as a separate entity. Look for Apple to pluck the best of Drive.ai and add employees to its Project Titan program. All evidence points to Project Titan as the name of the company's own self-driving car, or autonomous vehicle technology program. In 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed the company was developing a self-driving car system. A physical car, however, is still in question.

Drive.ai employees will join former Tesla and Waymo workers the company has poached in the past few years.

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The purchase also comes at a dire time for Drive.ai. Per The San Francisco Chronicle, the startup was prepared to shut down and lay off its 90 employees. Drive.ai had been seeking a buyer for its company since February.

Drive.ai had ran self-driving prototype cars since 2018. Most recently, it expanded to run autonomous vehicles in Arlington, Texas, and created a shuttle loop for the Dallas Cowboys' stadium, an office complex, the city's convention center, the Texas Rangers' ballpark, and the University of Texas at Arlington. The autonomous cars ran at Level 4, which allows a vehicle to operate on its own accord in nearly all situations and does not need to hand over controls to a human in the event of system failure. Level 5 is the highest level of autonomy with zero human interaction required.

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