It's fairly well known that Apple's ($AAPL) has been working on an autonomous vehicle for some time now, with hiring and firing for a group on the project since at least 2015.
But news that the company has bought self-driving car startup Drive.ai has brought chatter of an upcoming self-driving Apple Car back to a sizzling fervor once again. On Tuesday, Apple said that it acquired the Mountain View startup. This comes after several Drive.ai engineers had already been poached by Apple over the past year, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle (who quoted our very own James Mattone on the news break).
Meanwhile, Apple has scaled up hiring for autonomous vehicle experts. Job listings at the company with the term "Autonomous" in their titles have seen a steady rise over time.
In November, Apple had just 12 openings for that keyword. As of this week, we're seeing as many as 36 such positions.
As for what Apple will do with autonomous vehicle tech remains a bit of a mystery. If a self-driving Apple Car is in the cards, Apple will not only need to figure out its manufacturing process and partners, but also a way to get on the marketplace and compete with the likes of Tesla and just about every car manufacturer racing to put autonomous vehicles on the road.
Currently, Uber has 63 openings that match with the "Self-Driving" keywords, which is how the company tags its autonomous vehicles (as opposed to "autonomous"). That's an appreciable increase in hiring efforts since last fall for the company.
Lyft went on a hiring spree for its Autonomous Software division in the spring, as we've previously reported. As of this week, the company is still looking for at least 40 people to flesh out its needs.
There's no doubt that the autonomous vehicle races are just starting. But with companies like Apple, Uber, Lyft, Tesla all developing (and hiring) technology to make self-driving cars a very real thing (Amazon just invested in Aurora, a highly reputable startup in the space), things are likely to accelerate very quickly.
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