Apple has applied the finishing touches on its acquisition of Drive.ai, a Texas-based mobility startup that focused on self-driving cars. So we must ask: is this another attempt from Apple to get a piece of the autonomous vehicle pie before it’s too late and everybody has fully jumped the bandwagon? It could very well be, especially since the company has been strongly linked with such a move for many years now.

The Apple car saga started to catch contour in 2013, when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had a chat with the New York Times and mentioned that he "would have liked to take on Detroit with an Apple car." From there on, Pandora’s box was open and rumors about an Apple car started spreading on the internet like wildfire. First, an Apple employee anonymously sent an email to Business Insider, saying that the company is working on a product that would "give Tesla a run for its money." So, the Apple car or Apple iCar how many journalists liked to speculatively call it, would be an all-electric vehicle. Then the Project Titan name popped up, together with a deadline: 2019. Subsequently, Apple started a poaching campaign aimed at bringing know-how from the likes of Tesla, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Autoliv, and even Google. Amassed together with Apple’s own roster of employees assigned to the project, the total number of people involved in the project quickly rose to around 1,000.

Apple buys Drive.ai - What we know so far

Think An Apple Car Won't Happen? Well, a Recent Investment Says Otherwise
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Although Apple CEO Tim Cook has provided some sorts of hints that his company is looking to explore the self-driving car avenue, no evident move was made in that direction. Which is exactly what makes Apple’s acquisition of Drive.ai raise so many eyebrows.

To provide more context, Drive.ai has shut down all operations over the past month.

Back in 2018, the startup took to the streets of Frisco and Arlington, Texas, where it operated a fleet of self-driving Nissan NV200 EVs. The idea behind the project was to provide autonomous cars on-demand for the general public, allowing citizens to connect to office parks, restaurants, and stadiums. So, essentially, Apple has bought a dying startup that once valued around $200 million.

Think An Apple Car Won't Happen? Well, a Recent Investment Says Otherwise
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Drive.ai Nissan NV200 Equipment

Cameras 10
LIDARs 4
Radar 1
Hood LCDs 4
Exterior speakers 4, 22.5 x 7.5 inches each
Think An Apple Car Won't Happen? Well, a Recent Investment Says Otherwise
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According to Axios, Apple has also "hired dozens of Drive.ai engineers" and the deal also includes the purchase of "Drive.ai’s autonomous cars and other assets" according to sources unnamed by Axios. The same outlet reports that most of the hiring was done in areas such as engineering and product design.

Apple buys Drive.ai - What’s Next?

Think An Apple Car Won't Happen? Well, a Recent Investment Says Otherwise
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The purchase price hasn’t been disclosed, but the transaction does leave a lot of room for speculation. For example, since Apple also acquired Drive.ai’s fleet of cars, we could be led to believe that they’ve manage to come up with the software bit (user interface included) and it’s time to test it out in the open before actually giving it the green light.

Moreover, by getting its hands on a stable platform that’s tried and tested at a relatively low price compared to what Drive.ai used to be valued at, Apple will no doubt spare serious dollars which it would have otherwise spent on in-house R&D and the acquisition of new cars that would put the company’s self-driving technology to the test.

Think An Apple Car Won't Happen? Well, a Recent Investment Says Otherwise
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Last but not least, this could also be seen as shortcut taken by Apple in the race with the likes of Uber, Volvo, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and other major carmakers that have already started to dip into the self-driving car ocean.

This way, Apple would gain back some of the ground it lost over the past years, when its autonomous car program was anything but palpable.

Either way, if Apple’s intentions are serious, then we’re bound to learn more about the topic in the months to come.

Further Reading

2021 Apple iCar Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Read our full speculative review on the 2021 Apple iCar.

2021 Apple iCar
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Apple Wants to Link the Batteries of Self-Driving Electric Cars In the Name of Range and Efficiency.

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