According to the reports, Apple will soon buy Drive.ai for an undisclosed sum. The reports confirm an earlier San Francisco Chronicle article that said the giant company was kicking the tires on an autonomous driving company.
In a regulatory filing, the general counsel of Drive.ai, Thomas Yih, wrote that the start-up will close its offices on Friday, cutting its CEO and other executives in the process. However, in that same filing with California regulators, Drive.ai said that its situation could change “due to subsequent events beyond Drive.ai’s control or current knowledge”, leaving doors open for a possible acquisition:
Drive.ai plans to close its Mountain View office by Friday. The cuts include chief executive officer, Bijit Halder, and its directors of finance and robotics, a company official said in a June 12 letter sent to California’s Employment Development Department.
Waddell and Fried report that Mountain View-based Drive.ai, which actually made kits that turned regular cars into self-driving vehicles, was in the process of going out of business and had been shopping around to several potential customers, including Apple. In the end, Apple remained the only interested party. It seems quite a fall for a start-up that was earlier valued at $200 million only two years ago.
Apple will get a dozen of Drive.ai engineers and product designers in the deal, along with the startup’s autonomous cars and other hard assets. But it is likely that the main draw for Apple was the talent.
The news about Apple’s self-driving-car initiative Project Titan has recently been scarce, therefore the acquisition is important. The last major development came earlier this year when we learned that the project was actually letting go of around 200 people as part of a “restructuring” effort. The acquisition by Drive.ai suggests Project Titan is still breathing and searching out new talent.