Two years after CEO Tim Cook finally confirmed that Apple was developing a self-driving system, the company has acquired self-driving technology startup Drive.ai.
Apple confirmed the move to Axios in a statement made on Tuesday but didn’t reveal how much it paid. It’s thought the price paid was less than the $77 million Drive.ai managed to raise through venture capital since its founding in 2016.
Prior to the sale, Drive.ai was in financial strife and had already filed a notice with the state of California that it planned to close its business and lay off 90 workers, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The Silicon Valley-based company had been looking for a buyer since at least February.
Apple isn’t expected to maintain Drive.ai as an independent self-driving technology firm. Rather, Apple is expected to absorb the talent inside of the company to pair with other recent hires from the likes of Tesla and Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo.
Drive.ai has been operating self-driving car prototypes in Texas since 2018. Most recently, the company expanded its presence in Arlington, Texas, and began offering rides in automated shuttles between the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, an office complex, the city’s convention center, the Texas Rangers’ ballpark, and the University of Texas at Arlington.
The prototypes, based on Nissan NV200 vans, operate at Level 4 capability, which means they can drive on their own in most instances but still require a human driver to take over when necessary. The final goal is Level 5 capability, where a car can operate without the need of a driver.
Apple continues to quietly pursue automotive-related fields with patents for self-driving cars and electric vehicles. It also still tests vehicle technology regularly, but the company’s Project Titan automotive project remains a mystery at best.