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Apple to buy Drive.ai to add on more self-driving vehicle talent to its team: Report

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Apple is looking to buy autonomous vehicle startup Drive.ai thereby adding more talent to its self-driving tech ambitions. The price at which Apple is acquiring Drive.ai is not known, but speculations hint at a figure under $200 mn.

According to a report in The Information (paywall), the acquisition is more of an acqui-hire, which means that Apple is more interested in the talent that will come along with the purchase. In terms of technical prowess, Drive.ai had a limited number of pilot tests and Apple’s self-driving technology is quite ahead in the game. Drive.ai has raised around $77 mn since it was founded in 2015 and it was valued at $200 mn, said a Bloomberg report.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, waves to attendees during an Apple special event. Reuters

Apple will be deciding on which Drive.ai staff it wants to retain. According to people familiar with the matter who have spoken to Bloomberg, Apple will not be using any of Drive.ai’s intellectual property.

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.

“Their potential acquisition of Drive.ai would bring a new crop of engineering talent to aid in these efforts, but we do not expect a consumer product or service from Apple for 4+ years,” said Munster to Bloomberg.

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