Apple Furthers Self-Driving Car Aspirations by Acquiring drive.ai

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There’s no doubt there are a few big races now in tech, one of them being the first to release 5G. Another is the first to get self-driving cars on the road. As reported earlier this week, some states in the U.S. are now allowing autonomous cars without drivers on the road and are even changing laws to make it more of a reality, while companies are still testing in research centers as well.

But it all leads to the same question: who is going to take self-driving cars mainstream? Who will turn this into the hot new tech item that everyone has to have? It seems every auto company and tech company is working on their own autonomous cars. Apple may have just jumped ahead in this race by acquiring the autonomous driving startup drive.ai.

Apple Acquires drive.ai

Apple’s taken a beating lately in the tech world with many complaining they just don’t have it anymore since the passing of Steve Jobs. Some call them out for a lack of innovation, believing they’ll never regain that edge they had with the iPods, iPhones, etc. But maybe they can find what they lost with drive.ai.

To take that big leap, Apple acquired the autonomous driving startup. Through this acquisition, they have hired many of the company’s engineers and now have possession of the company’s cars as well as other acquisitions.

drive.ai was once valued at more than $200 million, though they were forced to shut down all operations earlier this month. While Apple confirmed they acquired the company, they have not mentioned what the deal’s terms are.

This leads to the question of what happened to Apple’s other self-driving car program, Project Titan. They were rumored to have cut more than 200 people from the program in the beginning of the year. Yet, data attained by Thinknum shows that Apple has been hiring more people for their autonomous car program.

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Project Titan launched in 2015, and instead of developing entire cars, they were working on a retrofit kit that could be added to existing cars to make them self-driving.

Last summer drive.ai was stepping into the public transportation space in Texas, offering the first self-driving shuttle service. It relied on the drive.ai app that allowed users to hail a ride similar to the way they hail an Uber or Lyft.

The company created their pilot program with help from the local transit authority in Frisco, Texas, and spent a lot of time on the cars, then spent four months traveling the geofenced route.

The drive.ai vans included clear markings to let everyone know exactly what they were dealing with on the road. Not only was their logo on the colorful vans, but they were also clearly labeled “self-driving vehicle,” along with a caution sign warning “passengers entering/exiting.”

Looming Questions

The looming questions revolve around what Apple tends to do with the drive.ai engineers, vehicles, and assets. It would stand to reason that the company isn’t just interested in the shuttle service. They most likely bought the company for the technology, but is this to help them with Project Titan? Or are they going in an entirely different direction?

What do you think Apple will be doing with the drive.ai technology? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Credit: drive.ai

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