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Apple buys autonomous shuttle firm, hires top chip developer

Apple this week confirmed that it has bought Drive.ai, an autonomous shuttle company. Tech news site The Information unveiled earlier in June that the company was considering making the move in an attempt to get some of its engineering talent on board and strengthen its self-driving car division.

One of the numerous start-ups in the self-driving car field, Drive.ai was running a fairly small number of test shuttles in Texas. It had, however, told regulators in California that it intended to terminate the services of its 90-strong staff and close its doors permanently. It is not uncommon for major firms in Silicon Valley to buy struggling start-ups in order to acquire their engineering staff. It even has a name: “acqui-hiring.”

Apple competes against major companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo in the autonomous vehicle field. Over the last year, it has restructured its operations and brought in former Tesla Inc. Head of Engineering Doug Field to run the division and its more than 5,000 staff members.

Apart from holding regular talks with possible suppliers, Apple is also working on core components, including sensors.



In other Apple news, the company has employed Mike Filippo, a former top chip engineer at ARM Holdings Inc., in an attempt to expand its in-house chip development to increasingly powerful devices such as the Mac, and additional categories such as headsets.

According to Filippo’s LinkedIn profile, Apple appointed him as chip architect. At ARM, he used to be a lead engineer responsible for chip designs that drive the bulk of the planet’s smartphones and tablets, and he was in charge of a new drive into computer parts.

ARM belongs to SoftBank Group Corp. It designs microprocessors and licenses technology that is crucial to the chip development endeavours of companies such as Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung and Huawei.

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