Bid to snap up top talent in autonomous driving software continues with Apple’s Drive.ai deal

Apple’s decision to acquire Silicon Valley start-up Drive.ai this week is a reminder of the market shock facing carmakers if they fail to react to the disruptive threat posed by autonomous vehicles.

Although how much Apple is paying for Drive.ai is undisclosed, what is clear is the extent to which Apple will benefit talent-wise from the deal. The deal is the latest example of a so-called ‘acqui-hire’, in which larger technology companies buy small start-ups to gain key talent.

GlobalData’s Thematic Research Team has identified autonomous vehicles as one of more than 50 key tech themes impacting a range of sectors, including automobiles, over the next two years.

Autonomous vehicles is one of the most seismic of disruptive themes. Alphabet (Google) and Apple are two of a queue of technology giants competing for leadership in the theme. Others include car industry stalwarts such as Bosch and General Motors (through its Cruise operation) and upstart electric vehicle newcomer Tesla.

Google’s Waymo is an autonomous vehicle technology development company which began life as the Self-Driving Car Project in 2009. Apple has been quietly running a secret operation called “Project Titan” which is said to have more than 1,000 people working on the project.

Graphics chip specialist, Nvidia, chipmakers Intel, Infineon and NXP, and sensor companies Sensata, Rohm and TDK are some of the technology companies identified by GlobalData as leaders in the autonomous vehicles theme. Other key players are map specialist Navinfo, autoparts company Continental, and ‘transport as a service’ company Uber.

Cyrus Mewawalla, Head of Thematic Research commented, “The global automotive sector faces four concurrent threats: the connected car, autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles and transport as a service, which the established players are scrambling to turn into an opportunity. However, developments are well outside of their traditional comfort zone and provides for industry outsiders, like Apple, the ideal opportunity to suck the lion’s share of future profits from a $3.5 trillion industry as evidenced by the Drive.ai deal.”

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