Apple Acqui-Hires Talent From Self-Driving Vehicle Company Drive.ai

By Dan Anderson ● Updated June 30, 2019
  • Apple has hired some of the key employees behind the self-driving car company Drive.ai
  • Drive.ai had also just filed a report with the Employment Development Department of California that it was planning to shut down

Apple has hired the team behind the self-driving car company called Drive.ai. Drive.ai was in the process of shutting down before Apple decided to make the “acqui-hire.”

Drive.ai had built kits to turn regular cars into self-driving vehicles. This was made possible through a kit that included radar cameras and Lidar systems.

Recently, Drive.ai had filed a report with the Employment Development Department of California that it was going to shut down and lay off 90 employees.

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In the report — which was addressed on June 12 — Drive.ai’s general counsel Thomas Yih said that the situation at the company could be subject to change “due to subsequent events beyond Drive.ai’s control or current knowledge.”

Rather than acquiring Drive.ai, Apple decided to hire a number of employees from the company. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, at least five former Drive.ai employees changed their LinkedIn profiles from Drive.ai to Apple this month. And four of those workers have “special projects” as part of their job titles. The talent includes employees with expertise in data science, systems, and software engineering.

Drive.ai’s valuation was $200 million as of a couple of years ago. This was based on $77 million in funding raised since launching in 2015 from venture firms like GGV Capital and New Enterprise Associates along with Asia-based ride-hailing service Grab.

Drive.ai co-founder Sameep Tandon started writing autonomous vehicle software while he was a student at Stanford. Tandon’s LinkedIn profile shows that he stopped working at Drive.ai this month. And Drive.ai co-founder Tao Wang is listed as leaving the company in February.

Drive.ai had set up a self-driving shuttle service in Arlington, Texas that helped passengers get to AT&T Stadium and the Convention Center. However, the shuttle service shut down on May 31.

Apple’s decision to hire the Drive.ai team members is surprising as its own self-driving efforts have been volatile. For example, Apple laid off and reassigned 200 hardware engineers that were working on the self-driving project.