Apple reportedly acquires self-driving shuttle firm Drive.ai for an undisclosed sum

Apple is vying against rivals such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo to develop self-driving vehicles.

Apple Inc on Tuesday confirmed that it has acquired self-driving shuttle firm Drive.ai.

Apple reportedly acquires self-driving shuttle firm Drive.ai for an undisclosed sum

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Technology news website The Information reported earlier this month that the iPhone maker was considering acquiring the firm as a move to bring aboard some of its engineering talent to boost Apple’s own self-driving efforts.

One of hundreds of startups pursuing autonomous vehicles, Drive.ai had been running a small fleet of test shuttles in Texas, The Information reported. But the startup told California regulators that it plans to lay off 90 people in a permanent closure. The San Francisco Chronicle earlier reported the closure.

In Silicon Valley, it is common for larger companies to acquire struggling startups primarily to hire their engineers, a move known in the industry as an “acqui-hire.”

Apple is vying against rivals such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo to develop self-driving vehicles. In the past year, Apple has revamped its efforts, bringing former Tesla Inc engineering chief Doug Field to oversee the operation, which includes more than 5,000 workers.

Apple is also working on key components such as sensors in addition to holding talks with potential suppliers.

Recently, Apple had let go of around 200 of its employees working on the self-driving vehicle group, known internally as Project Titan. The dismissals were seen, internally, as anticipated restructuring under the relatively new leadership of Project Titan, CNBC said.

“As the team focuses their work on several key areas for 2019, some groups are being moved to projects in other parts of the company, where they will support machine learning and other initiatives, across all of Apple,” the company said in a statement.

According to a veteran Apple analyst, Gene Munster, Apple's ambitions in the self-driving vehicle space lie in the broader application of autonomous systems and related services, rather than actually making an autonomous vehicle per se.

With inputs from Reuters

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