Apple is looking to take a bigger bite out of the autonomous vehicle sector by buying Drive.ai, according to a report in the tech publication The Information.
Silicon Valley-based Drive.ai, which has an office in Plano, has been operating autonomous vehicles in Arlington since fall 2018. There, the company is piloting self-driving vans in the city’s entertainment district near AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park. The pilot program is governed by a one-year contract between the City of Arlington and Drive.ai, Dallas Innovates reported last year.
“This forward-thinking, bustling city has unique transportation needs and we plan to provide a last-mile transit solution within a vibrant entertainment district,” Conway Chen, vice president of business strategy at Drive.ai, said last August.
Drive.ai began looking for buyers as early as February. According to The Information, Apple is looking to acquire Drive.ai’s engineering talent in a move that could boost Apple’s own development of self-driving vehicles. But, acquiring Drive.ai is not Apple’s first foray into the autonomous vehicle scene.
The company started a self-driving vehicle effort called Titan several years ago. TechCrunch reports that today, Apple continues to test its Titan project vehicles, but few other details about the project are clear. Recently, Apple has also been hiring engineers away from companies Waymo and Tesla, which also have autonomous vehicle programs.
Two people with a connection to the reported acquisition described it to The Information as an “acqui-hire.” According to the publication, the move could land dozens of Drive.ai’s engineers jobs at Apple.
Cooley GO describes an “acqui-hire” as a company bought “predominantly for the fabulous team” and not for the products or services sold.
Since 2015, Drive.ai has raised $77 million in five funding rounds, according to Crunchbase.
Arlington is not the only North Texas city that Drive.ai’s vehicles have called home. In March, a Drive.ai pilot in Frisco came to an end, and the city did not renew its contract with Drive.ai, according to media reports.
As for the future of Drive.ai and Apple—we’ll just have to wait and see. An Apple spokesperson told The Information, “We don’t comment on speculation.”
Payton Potter contributed to this report
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