Self-driving startup Drive.ai was once valued at $200 million. However, recent reports indicated that the company was shutting down and laying off all its staff. But now, that’s not going to happen as Cupertino-based technology giant Apple has confirmed that it has acquired the startup.
Around three weeks back, Apple was said to be in talks to acquire Drive.ai, that was founded in 2015 by machine learning researchers from Stanford University. The startup used to run a ride-hailing service in Texas, but the difference was that it used autonomous shuttles. The deal could mean that a dozen of Drive.ai engineers may join Apple’s Project Titan, which is known to have gone through its own set of troubles.
Earlier today, it seemed like the deal between the two companies did not work out as Drive.ai filed a notice with the state agency that indicated that it permanently wants to close down and lay-off its 90 employees. The report about this first surfaced in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Prior to this, a year ago, Drive.ai looked like one among the most promising startups that focussed on autonomous cars. The company was primarily known for using deep learning to recognize and avoid objects on the road. The company also made headlines last year when it conducted fixed route tests with its autonomous vehicles without any human safety drivers on public roads.
The company’s fleet consists of a modified Nissan NV200s that were orange in colour and had a wavy blue stripe and “self-driving vehicle” emblazoned on the side. The cars also featured four LED screens — one was placed on the hood, one on the rear and two were above each of the front tires. These display messages to pedestrians and anyone else in close proximity to the car. The screens displayed messages that conveyed the vehicle’s intent to others on the road. The messages included words like ‘Waiting’, ‘Going’, ‘Entering’, ‘Existing’, and more.
While a number of investors have put billions of dollars into autonomous vehicle startups and a number of them have readjusted their timelines because of the challenges that they have encountered. A lot of experts also see the full deployment of self-driving cars being years away.
As of now, there is no clarity on whether the company will be going ahead with its layoffs on Friday. According to reports, Apple has purchased Drive.ai’s assets, including its autonomous cars. However, it has also been said that the technology giant has chosen to hire engineers away from Drive.ai directly. Other workers may not get the same option.
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