Self-driving startup Drive.ai is closing down
The closure was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. The company is not responding to media inquiries, a PR rep told TechCrunch.
The company’s Mountain View headquarters will close down on Friday, according to WARN documents filed with the Employment Development Department of California. A company must file a WARN document ahead of a mass layoff or plant closure.
Rumors have been swirling for weeks that Apple was looking to snap up the startup. Earlier this month, The Information reported that Apple was pursuing an acqui-hire, a term that typically means a smaller, targeted acquisition aimed at bringing on specific talent.
That appears to have panned out for at least some of the company’s 90 employees. At least five employees changed their LinkedIn profiles to show they started employment at Apple’s special projects division this month, according to SF Chronicle and confirmed by TechCrunch’s own review.
Drive.air was founded in 2015 by former graduate students working in Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Lab run by Andrew Ng, the renowned artificial intelligence expert. Ng is chairman of Drive.ai’s board and is married to co-founder Carol Reiley.
The company, which originally focused on self-driving software systems and intelligent communications systems, received a lot of attention and investment in those first years. It later raised more money as it tweaked its business model with a plan to combine deep learning software with hardware to make self-driving retrofitted kits designed for business and commercial fleets. In all, the company has raised about $77 million, according to Pitchbook data. It was last valued at $200 million in 2017.
The startup ramped up operations in 2017 and 2018. Last year it launched a pilot program in Frisco, Texas to test an on-demand service using self-drivings. But even as it expanded, the executive team appeared to be constantly in flux with several people holding the CEO spot.