The Autonomist
Bright orange minivan driving at speed

Apple breaks cover with self-drive startup purchase

Apple’s not-so-secret self-driving project has finally broken cover with the acquisition of Drive.ai.

It’s understood that the tech giant has bought the firm – for an undisclosed sum –more for its engineering talent than its intellectual property.


Apple will now fold the Californian startup into its secretive Project Titan autonomous car division.


The move is the first major public demonstration of Apple’s commitment to research and development in the connected and driverless vehicle sector.


It’s unclear whether the behemoth is developing services or hardware products or indeed, whether the consumer market will be targeted.


But the presence of the iPhone maker and its software expertise – albeit furtively – adds cachet to the CAV sector and the promise of exciting consumer products in the years to come.

Display screen on the side of a self-driving van with pedestrian crossing

Drive.ai pioneered the bold use of car body-mounted display screens to communicate with boarding passengers, pedestrians and drivers.

Drive.ai made a promising start on launch in 2015, raising some $77 million in VC funding in subsequent years.


Within two years, the company, but has struggled to break through in recent years. Its only current trial is in Arlington, Texas, where it is running a self-driving on-demand service for the public since last October.


It operates between the Dallas Cowboys stadium, the Texas Rangers stadium, Arlington Convention Center, CenterPoint office complex and surrounding area.


Previously it had a similar trial with its distinctively bright orange minivans in Frisco, a suburb of Dallas, Texas, but the contract was renewed.


Through an on-demand ride hailing system, Arlington residents can connect to office parks, restaurants, convention centres, entertainment venues, and public recreational spaces.


Drive.ai – founded by the trio of Silicon Valley engineers, Sameep Tandon, Joel Pazhayampallil and Will Song – pioneered the bold use of car body-mounted display screens to communicate with boarding passengers, pedestrians and drivers.

By Ray Molony, Technology Editor