Apple’s interest in autonomous vehicles is well known and a new report says the company is in talks to buy Drive.ai.
Nothing is official, but The Information says Apple wants to acquire the struggling company to boost its own autonomous driving program.
The deal is being billed as a so-called “acqui-hire” as Apple appears to be mainly interested in Drive.ai’s engineering talent. As a result, the purchase could see dozens of engineers added to Apple’s program.
There’s no word on how much money Apple is willing to pay, but the publication says Drive.ai was valued at approximately $200 (£157 / €177) million two years ago. The company has struggled since then and has reportedly been looking for a suitor for months.
Apple and Drive.ai wouldn’t comment on the report, but autonomous vehicles require significant capital to develop and the path to profitability is murky at best. That’s one of the reasons the industry is dominated by big names such as Alphabet’s Waymo and GM’s Cruise Automation.
Drive.ai is much smaller than either of the aforementioned competitors and it operates a fleet of autonomous vans in Arlington and Frisco, Texas. Unlike Waymo’s ride-hailing service, Drive.ai’s vehicles have fixed pick-up and drop-off locations.
While Apple cut 200 employees from its autonomous driving program earlier this year, the company continues to work on the technology. At the time, a spokesperson told CNBC “We have an incredibly talented team working on autonomous systems and associated technologies at Apple.” They went on to say “We continue to believe there is a huge opportunity with autonomous systems, that Apple has unique capabilities to contribute, and that this is the most ambitious machine learning project ever.”