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Apple buys autonomous driving company Drive.ai (axios.com)
440 points by Deimorz 27 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 214 comments

Apple pretty consistently pays bottom dollar for acquisitions, and typically does an acquihire which results in the former company's product being deep sixed. So this looks like an autonomous driving skill acquisition, but for all we know the remaining team will be purposed to guessing where you are by dead-reckoning on your phone, or improving Photos' judgement or who knows.

In fact the only case I can remember when they didn't do this was with the liquid metal company, and that one didn't pan out. (there are presumably others but I don't recall any off the top of my head.).

They have bought a few products, like iTunes, without buying the company.

Siri, TestFlight, Workflow, Shazam, Beats, FoundationDB, SoundJam ( iTunes ), FileMaker, P.A Semi, PrimeSense, and of course the biggest one that is still going strong, NeXT. ( Well technically it was NeXT acquired Apple and changed its name to Apple /s )

And I don't think they acquired Liquidmetal the company, they only signed a deal for Consumer electronics exclusive use up to a period of time, and my guess was LiquidMetal were too expensive and they could not figure out a way to hit High Volume Production.

Although I generally do agree Apple pays bottom dollar for acquisitions. One reason why I am not hopeful of them buying the Intel Modem business along with all the 3G - 5G Patents.

Can anyone explain why you wouldn't pay the lowest price you could for an acquisition?

If you want to buy some cheap metalworking equipment, buying from a small metalworking company on the cusp of bankruptcy can get you a great price.

But if you want to buy a business that makes a lot of money, you'll be hard pressed to find one if you only look at small companies on the cusp of bankruptcy.

What Apple does is buy companies with fantastic technology, but a very limited ability to bring that to the market as a compelling product on their own.

Siri had limited value as a standalone app interfacing only to public APIs and services, but huge value as a deeply integrated platform interface with links into all the platform services. The original company could never realise that sort of enhanced value, so as a standalone player it's value was limited and Apple could buy it (relatively) cheap.

PA Semi as a small independent chip designer could eke out a decent living doing small bespoke designs for companies here or there. That has value, but it's limited. However as the designers of the undisputed heavyweight champion mobile CPUs, in the most successful consumer product of all time, providing significant product differentiating performance and features, they have enormous value but _only_ if Apple buys them.

User ksec gave a great list of successful Apple acquisitions for which their core products still exist and are thriving and the above pattern applies just as well to all of them. That's the primary model for Apple. I'm sure there are cases where they buy teams for talent, but it's usually talent in a specific area Apple can directly leverage somewhere in their products.

EDIT: I would into be at all surprised if Apple went into these negotiations saying "We love your technology, it;s great. Here's an offer. BTW here's the brochure of another similar company with almost as good technology we could buy instead, integrate into our products and kill you with.".

> *What Apple does is buy companies with fantastic technology, but a very limited ability to bring that to the market as a compelling product on their own.

Not always, Beats headphones was them buying a company producing complimentary products, most of the value was in the brand, marketing and the distinct visual design of the products. There's nothing special about the technology and the company was very effective in bringing their product to market.

Beats Music is the basis for Apple Music and was absolutely worth the purchase for the technology.

This story about Drew Houston meeting Steve Jobs for acquisition talks pretty much confirms the supposition in your edit.

“'You either got Chill Steve or Very Mean Steve': Dropbox founder remembers being summoned to Apple by Steve Jobs — then told his startup would be killed”


Siri was good, not anymore compared to Alexa

If you‘re Apple and only want to buy businesses that make „a lot of money“, you‘re pretty limited. Most oh so successful and profitable companies are only making nickel and dime in regards to Apple. Why pay top dollars for that?

Reading the letter of the message rather than the intent...

Yes in terms of raw $, you are right. As it's meant to be read (profitable and stable? within that industry).

I don't think anyone is arguing against that. I think it's mostly that "the lowest price [they] could" is typically a pretty aggressive offer. Apple is really great at finding companies that have great proof-of-concept products with no way to polish them or scale them and then using their resources to make the "Apple-y" version of that product that's integrated into everything. They're rarely the only company looking at these potential acquisitions and they're more concerned with locking them down than they are at negotiating and potentially losing out.

Many people criticized Facebook for its overpriced acquisitions over the years at the time, but what’s app and instagram have payed off huge for them. Cheaper acquisitions might have not planned out so well. The price can be worth it

Facebook bought a user base with the WhatsApp and Instagram acquisitions. I don't think they cared very much about the technology or the skill set of either WhatsApp or Instagram.

When you're in a bidding war, you won't get the lowest price. Part of the reason Apple's secrecy is profitable.

why would anyone sell their company for lowest possible price?

Because they couldn't get more for it.

If they needed to sell, and the apple offer was the only one available.

Which implies they also sold it for the highest possible price (I'd give $.25 to buy Apple - I don't think share holders will agree to that deal)

What makes marketplaces work is the "saddle" shape of transactions.

Alice wishes to buy a house. She narrows her choice down to three candidates, and is looking to pay the lowest possible price for one of the three.

Bob has a house for sale. After showing it for a week, his agent puts it up for offers, and he is looking to accept the highest possible price.

If Bob's highest possible price is also Alice's lows possible price, they both win.

So it is very possible for one party to sell for the highest possible price, while the other party is buying for the lowest possible price, even if both have the same information about the market.


So yes, Apple could have paid the lowest possible price while simultaneously--and you would be correct--they sold for the highest possible price.

If we're listing PA Semi, then I'll add Fingerworks. Their first-party products (e.g. TouchStream keyboards) vanished, but their multitouch technology heralded an entirely new age of touch-based UI. Like PA Semi, it took Apple to realize the potential we've now seen from that tech.

Essentially some of best acquisitions in recent history (although I’d say FB has done better but they had their evil ways). Pretty much the opposite of Google.

Well, Youtube is a stark counterpoint. Google today without Youtube is unthinkable. While I despise the company, Doubleclick also radically changed Google and was probably what changed Google into the advertising giant they are now.

Apple is just more careful on their acquisitions.

True, particularly about double click, but is YouTube really a well managed acquisition?

It seems to be a victim of Google’s schizo approach to product in the sense that every 12 months it seems to be following a new strategy or launching a new product to replace an older one Id never used anyway. Their whole YouTube Red stuff, and YouTube Music, I have no idea what the long term strategy of this company is. Outside of ads of course.

> Doubleclick also radically changed Google

And on the other side of ads, Google Analytics started as Urchin.

Workflow --> Shortcuts was another acquisition where they kept the product going and how now integrated it into their software.

But indeed, not the rule.

Shazam is another, Apple removed Admob, Bolts, Doubleclick, FB Ads, FB Analytics, FB login, Inmobi, IAS, Moat, and Mopub from the app and continued to update it.

Is Shazam actually one of the safer "always on" microphone apps. I didn't realize it was owned by Apple.

I found the desktop app pretty useful in just identifying songs friends played when people were over, popular songs in commercials, and just popular songs that played when I lived abroad on tv. But as I thought about the security implications of apps like Alexa and Hey Google I eventually uninstalled it. Siri was always basically useless so I kept it off mostly for that reason.

Siri used Shazam too so you can just ask “What’s this song?” And it’ll tell you

I didn’t know that. Will test soon, thanks!

To be fair, Apple only just bought it a few months ago. 9 months to be exact.

they removed youtube and spotify integration.

Spotify integration still seems to be there. They have added Apple Music integration of course though.

All of the original engineers are still on the project, they've just made the team larger.

Logic (Emagic) is another acquisition that is still going strong.

They axed the PC edition though - just before a major version upgrade was to be released.

Yeah, pretty peeved about that

Logic Pro, later the Alchemy synth, then TestFlight are the acquired products that come to mind. However, Buddybuild got acquired and shut down but hasn't resurfaced yet in full, i.e. as a CI tool.

Reminds me of old school Nothing Real Shake disappearing short after acquisition.

Buddybuild didn’t get shut down. FoundationDB is another acquisition that is still going.

> Buddybuild didn’t get shut down

I know, but they don't accept new customers ever since the acquisition. Apple recently added a screenshot/feedback function to TestFlight, which is just one of the many things BB could do. Anyway, I'm hoping TestFlight will become a full CI tool or otherwise, what was the point of this acquisition? However, it's been more than a year already...

Siri was an acquired product that survived, but more often than not you’re right.

Apple is cheap company inside. You see it in their employment offers, pay, benefits, internal snacks & meals, laptops & test devices they give to employees, etc.

Only when your a 'special person' do you get something competitive, but that applies to any company.

I can find a few non-bottom dollars on this page; P.A. Semi and Anobit as examples.

1. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mergers_and_acquisit...

Intrinsity wasn't cheap given it was primarily for IC design tools (Fast14). Though you might argue it was a good deal for Apple because it possibly gave them an edge that other IC design houses lack.


Apple bought Final Cut Pro from Macromedia in 1998.


I don't think Apple did acquire LiquidMetal (that might be what you mean, but it reads as if you think they paid over the odds for the acquisition) -- they acquired a licence for their IP in 2010, renewed in 2012, and in 2015 established a licence in perpetuity for consumer uses of the technology (I suppose 'consumer' is a useful distinction because there may be military applications for it).

Apple has been filing its own patents for liquid metal alloys and technology since then. It's still a nascent area, but Apple has had a consistent broad thematic focus on materials science in R&D for the last ~7-8 years, so I'm not sure how one could reliably determine this licence to have not panned out.

As far as I know the only direct application of the technology we can see today remains the SIM-removal tool shipped with each iPhone.

It might be nice to work for a company like Apple one day but they are never mentioned in discussions about big tech salaries for some weird reason.

Speaking of “bottom dollar,” how does Apple pay their engineers compared to other big tech?

Graphlab was another product they acquired along with the company Turi. The product was axed - acqui-hire for the team to do deep learning.

Similarly for the key-value store FoundationDB.

> Similarly for the key-value store FoundationDB.

They open-sourced that, and not in a "dump the baby on the community doorstep" kind of way. It's active:



In addition to open-sourcing it, last I heard FoundationDB is what powers iCloud.

MetaIO was turned into ArKit

Yes, their tagline should be "repurposed in California" instead of "designed in..." They don't really "innovate" much anymore. Well, except record prices.

> Why it matters: The deal and hires confirm that Apple hasn't given up its autonomous driving project.

I think the first sign was the near continuous sightings of Apple’s self driving cars in Cupertino. At one point i literally saw four of them at the intersection of Homestead and Wolfe (next to the spaceship), one going in each direction.

That almost sounds like a set-piece, making sure they don't interfere with each other (assuming they're using LIDAR).

I’m not sure about this. This kind of integration test would almost certainly be performed in a closed course (parking lot / garage).

Well, as an initial test, sure, but you have to do the same test in an open road once you know it works in isolation.

It probably also makes sense to do it in an environment with lots of reflections of different kinds. If you were genuinely worried about your primary sensor getting bad data, you definitely wouldn't test four of them together in the real world until you were quite sure they would be fine. Just imagine two of them taking off at the light and swerving wildly around phantom cars!

Was that before they laid off 190 employees from the self-driving team?

Personally, I'm happy to see multiple strong techcos getting involved in autonomous driving. Apple especially, considering their non-standard MO.

Uber & Tesla are showing us that just because a company is culturally SV/startup, it doesn't necessarily mean that their business becomes a (taking Thiel's definition) monopoly in the Google/FB sense.

If/when autonomous driving starts living up to predictions, it will be a massive crucial industry. Hopefully every part of it will be a competitive market. An Airbnb of autonomous trucking or a Microsoft of autonomous taxis would be disturbing.

I think it'll roll out in different geographic areas at different times, depending on regulations and mapping data of each company. Waymo is clearly going to be first in Arizona, Tesla may be first to a wide roll-out, and let's be real, probably Waymo will be first in California too.

Andrew ng was a board member at Drive.ai and also posted some very promising videos like driving in rain etc. Not sure what lead to this lukewarm exit.

There's a huge amount of work to be done, between releasing promising videos and having customer ready self driving product.

For video, you don't need any 9s of reliability. For a product, you need to have a lot of 9s, and each nine is getting exponentially harder.

How many 9s do you need? I have long said you just need more than humans: one is probably enough for that... Getting to 1 9 is pretty hard though.

I used to think that getting just to human level of 9s is enough, but I've changed my mind recently.

I think we can get to human level, by pure fact that we computers don't get distracted (they only crash ;-) ) and can also pickup signals, we cannot, due to 360° sensors. But computers are still bad at dealing with cases that are obvious to humans, due to lack of context and awareness.

I don't think that public will accept technology like that. I think there'll be a lot of public backslash once videos showing crashes in cases that are extremely obvious to humans. Videos from avoided crashes, that wouldn't be that obvious to humans won't be enough to change the sentiment.

Distribution of headlines that say "car crashed" vs "car avoided a crash" will be the same as "someone does a bad thing" vs "someone does a good thing".

Statistics can tell the difference.

It can, but when was last time that average joe understood and cared about statistic, compared to flashy headline?

The average american has about five nines on a per mile basis in the US. That's in all weather conditions and including all types of accidents / road rage issues / car maintenance levels. Under good conditions, I wouldn't be surprised if another few nines could be added to that.

What are 9s?

I'm not 100% sure, but I think they're referring to the nines of reliability. Something, such as web hosting or server time, is typically deemed as "reliable" when it is 99.999% available as intended. I think what they're trying to say is that a video doesn't need to be reliable at all. As long as you can execute something once or fake it realistically, the video is good enough. For real-world application, though, you need at least 99.9% reliability and, arguably, you'd need 99.999+% for people to accept it.

I might be totally off, though, since I've never heard of the nines being used in the context of autonomy but it does make sense in context of the conversation being had.

I understood 9s in the parent context to mine as referring to accidents per mile. Humans have 5 9s reliability in the sense that the probability of having an accident in any given mile is <0.001%

That's not how it works. Autonomous cars would need to be a couple of orders of magnitudes safer than humans. Human killing human is one thing and machine killing humans is quite another. But more importantly, the blame currently gets distributed over many people's insurance policies. For autonomous cars, all blame would end up at car manufacturer. Imagine you getting blamed for every single accident that happens ever. Even if you have achieved human-level safe driving and chance of an accident is 0.001%, multiplying that with millions of vehicles is a huge number. A dominant autonomous car manufacturer will be blamed for 4 human deaths each hour even if they have achieved human-level safety.

I do agree in principle but there will be nations like china who dont care and just adopt it. After some years the benefits will be obvious and the rest will follow.

Humans have higher expectations for technology. Better than humans is not enough.

>Better than humans is not enough.

By that logic, perfection is not enough because perfect is better than humans.

Saying “x condition is not sufficient” does not mean “x is always insufficient”.

Because every automotive company already has a self driving division and they have realized it's not a realistic dream to work on for at least a decade?

If you are an automotive company you need a self driving plan (not always a division) as risk control. If your competitor comes out with a self driving car that is statically safer than humans you might find your manual driven cars banned from the road. Having some IP in self driving cars is thus a good way to ensure that should that happen you can get good license terms for their tech (play nice with us, or we will sue your for patent violation). Note that good license terms can be millions of dollars.

A plan means either you have a division, or you have an agreement that you can use someone else's if it works out. Either works.

As car makers discover self driving cars are hard they worry less about the risk and put less into development.

How is it "not realistic to work on"?

Tesla has a self-driving functionality in their cars right now on the market, and a quick youtube research will show you that it blows the competition right off, they are better by an order of a magnitude.

Now, it is nowhere near full (level 5 or whatever) self-driving, but noone says that it has to be. The point is that you bring up all other car manufacturers, and they all have obviously inferior products compared to Tesla's (if we are looking at commercially available general personal vechicles). The self-driving as it is right now (even though not level 5) is obviously very useful to many people, it is a good product, the market is right there. And yet these Every Automotive Companies have failed to produce something that Tesla already has on the market. So the problem is not that it is not an "unrealistic dream",(if it exists already), the problem is that other automotive companies are basically behind on this.

My guess is that they are not software companies, they have never had to develop really complicated software, and while having expertise on the mechanical side of things, they are ways behind on the software.

> Tesla has a self-driving functionality in their cars right now on the market

It’s semi-autonomous, requiring constant attention from the driver and operating in an extremely limited set of conditions.

Truly autonomous cars are decades away.

Which is exactly what I wrote if you read the complete message. The point is, how does a new company produce this good product (which many people find very useful, even if it sounds like you don't) - when all the other major manufacturers with their experience and budgets are failing in this regard?

You called it self driving, which it most definitely is not. Unless you’re going to argue that old school cruise control also constituted self driving tech.

And Tesla’s assisted driving tech isn’t that much better than other manufacturers.

Other manufacturers are not failing, you’re just blinded by Tesla’s flashy marketing.

For example, Volvo’s current breed of cars has everything that Tesla has to offer. However, their approach is “no person killed by Volvo by 2020”, so their tech is rightly called assisted driving. Other manufacturers have similar tech and approaches.

A few years back European truck manufacturers even had a competition that involved autonomous driving on general roads across multiple state borders in Europe.

However, Tesla’s marketing keeps insisting that their tech is full autonomous driving, and their lawyers correctly insist that its not.

Now, back to the “not realistic to work on”. Because it’s not realistic. Real autonomous driving is decades away. And “state-of-the-art” is barely semi-autonomous (requires driver’s attention at all times), barely works under ideal conditions (read: sunny California weather with good roads, signs and road markings), can barely handle a very restricted set of road and weather conditions etc. etc.

> For example, Volvo’s current breed of cars has everything that Tesla has to offer.

Have you actually tried it or did you just read it off some anti-tesla rant on the Internet? I desperately want to believe that statement because Teslas are very overpriced for the amount of comfort they provide, but every time I test any other car, the "lane assist" and similar things are nowhere near what Tesla offers. They are all "just as good" on paper, and then you activate lane assist and smallest problem like one small segment of the road line being off makes a Volvo or something else scream in panic and force you to take the wheel while Tesla gracefully doesn't even notices at as a problem and keeps driving. Just because the other manufacturers say on paper "we also have lane assist" does not mean it's the same function.

Look at this latest Audi e-tron. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjsfMmJ4AiM

When you say that other manufacturers are not doing as much marketing for this, you are right. But you got it the other way around: it's not that they are behind on the marketing, and that's why they are failing. They are failing to implement these features that Tesla's already have in great quality on the mass-market, - and that's why they don't have the audacity to market those features, because they know that if they forced people to actually take their "lane assist" seriously, they would be scrutinized by the market even more and all those flaws would be brought to light.

Go actually test a Tesla autopilot, on a long drive, and then go actually test a Volvo, VW, BMW, etc lane assist -and then come back and review your statement. Your mind will be changed.

> barely works under ideal conditions (read: sunny California weather with good roads, signs and road markings),

Watch more of videos on that channel. Many rain situations are fine, and barely some visible road markings is all that is needed. Yes level 5 might be a decade away, but even as it is - that's like 80% of driving time covered. What part of it is "unrealistic" when it already exists?

> Have you actually tried it or did you just read it off some anti-tesla rant on the Internet?

I have.

> They are failing to implement these features that Tesla's already have in great quality on the mass-market

> Go actually test a Tesla autopilot, on a long drive

You keep buying into Tesla's marketing.

Here's a riddle for you: every time a Tesla fails and kills a person, Tesla quickly blames the driver. They say that the driver has to always keep watch and grab the wheel at the first sign of trouble.

Here's an official statement by Tesla in such an accident: "We also ask our customers to exercise safe behavior when using our vehicles, including following the car’s instructions for remaining alert and present when using Autopilot and to be prepared to take control at all times" [1]

Why is that, do you think?

Other companies are just less careless about human lives. They don't pretend it's a full autopilot. They don't pretend that the system can handle 100% of situations. They don't pretend that you can safely fall asleep behind the wheel, and nothing will happen. They call it what it is and introduce the features gradually because they are fully aware of the current capabilities of autonomous systems.

Tesla is fully aware of that as well, but their marketing is willfully engaged in deception tactics.

> What part of it is "unrealistic" when it already exists?

The part where it doesn't exist. In all cases it requires the driver to be fully engaged and alert at all times.

[1] https://abcnews.go.com/US/teslas-autopilot-blamed-driver-acc...

It killed five people, Erlich.

Probably investors just not "feeling" like it. Real advancements in tech need years of R&D funding before they can come to fruition; most of the venture capital industry is hell-bent on short term numbers and PowerPoint hockey stick curves and not hard promising science.

Ex drive.ai employee here. I got $0 for my stocks.

purchase price < funding amount, investors had liquidity preferences, probably only a couple employees (if any) got anything

Were you employee at a time of acquisition?

why would it matter? I had vested a good chunk of my stocks. And it’s hard to define since they did not buy my shares.

Did they pay out everything to "preferred" shareholders, leaving employees with common shares holding an empty bag?

So Apple did not actually buy all of drive.ai?

I honestly have no idea of what I can say and what I can't say.

I think it's reasonable to think that I can share that nobody bought my shares. I can't talk for any other employee or anybody else.

The crunchbase story title "Apple Said To Have Bought Assets Of Struggling Drive.ai" perhaps indicates what happened. https://news.crunchbase.com/news/drive-ai-reportedly-closing...

what was the grant value of your stocks?

"The backdrop: Drive.ai's highlighter-orange vans ferried workers around a business park in Frisco, Tex., and shuttled fans in nearby Arlington to Cowboys games."

This sounds more impressive than the Cruise cars I see with one driver-engineer at the wheel. Has anyone been shuttled in one and can comment on the experience?

I’ve been in a rival company’s car that drives in SF. It was truly amazing. On the short drive it dealt with a garbage bag in the street, a truck driving the wrong way on a one way street, a jaywalker, and a double parked car, all with no issues whatsoever.

I know some cruise guys, and they say it’s a similar experience. They basically run a free, autonomous Uber for employees. They’ll be full in the morning and afternoon and then drive around the city alone midday to build up miles.

I can confirm that they didn't stop their self driving car project. I see their Lexus driving around Sunnyvale all the time.

Feel bad for the employees, not sure how much their options would be worthy of right now...

The employees are all machine learning engineers with a focus on autonomous vehicles (aka, the current hot shit in machine learning), which means they're probably all making $300k+ per year at the low end. They'll be fine.

Lol if you think that they make that much at a failing startup

Yep, eazenberg is right. I kinda know what they were paying. It's not how much you think.

why not say it for all of us to know?

Because that would break the unwritten confidentiality I have with the people there. And life just can't be lived by burning bridges :)

But they’re no longer at a failing startup. They’re at Apple.

Apple can and does fire people in their acquisitions, including engineers and other skilled positions.

And those people were never at Apple.

There's a bit of tautology - They are at Apple because if they were fired in the acquisition they were never at Apple.

As someone who has been through an acquisition, it's a liminal space. You remain the employee of the company being purchased, right up until the purchase goes through, which is after the offers from the purchaser are extended to people. The amount of people coming over can be part of the due dillegence and terms of the deal. (e.g. n engineers are to be purchased, but all the engineers suck, so the deal is off, or the price is reduced.)

Apple never extended an offer, or an offer was not accepted. Either way, they were not at any point an employee of Apple, or any other company.

Lol if you think they make that much at Apple.

But the original point stands. They should be able to get good paying jobs somewhere.

300k is roughly the levels.fyi estimate for Apple, level ICT4 (which is considered a slightly lower level than Google L5, Facebook E5).

Why would engineers in a highly sought-after field not make that much at Apple?

You'd be surprised how low pay is in sought-after fields. Everyone wants in and accepts less.

Apple is not known for high pay. Employees get little plaques that say “the journey is the reward.”

And your 300k from levels.fyi is not base salary. Base salary is listed as 180k, more in line with reality.

There's no difference between RSU and salary compensation except that one only comes twice a year.


Sure, you don't know exactly how much it'll be, but you can expect it's gonna be pretty good. I suppose it's also harder to get the value into your 401k.

Definitely not true.

If the price barely covered the VCs I doubt the employees got anything.

They were granted a swift passage. Many should be thankful for that.

Kind of sux when they probably took paycuts to join with promises of equity riches

Never join a startup to get rich. Your option are lottery tickets, and most likely worthless. In fact, they’re worthless, right up until a liquidity event, and many times — like now — they’re still worthless.

It’s now extremely ill-advised to join a startup. There are barely any advantages unless you are 1) young 2) a cofounder or 3) some altruistic reason. If you are neither these things, it’s completely not worth it.

You forgot 4) Want a chance to gain a lot of experience and responsibility quickly.

In all fairness, that is probably a subset of 1.

what is the current alternative to this? How do you gain a lot of equity from a pre-IPO company? Is being a VC the only thing?

Just don’t work for a startup. I did it for 8 years. I know it’s not compared to some but I never made it rich from any of my ventures. Won’t ever do it again now that I’m in a Fortune 500 company. At first it can feel like I’m a number and I can get as passionately involved in a project but I like money. And now I have it and a solid work/life balance.

Why would you want equity from a pre-IPO company? Even for cofounders, who start with let's say ~40% equity, for the duration of their efforts, the majority will have made more money if they were senior leaders at bigger companies.

There are opportunities to buy pre-ipo stock, so yes you can just use money.

0.0 is what the employees got

"Apple shows up to Drive.ai liquidation sale" would be more informative. A small number of employees and some assets were brought over.

Well, at least Drive.ai's creditors have a good chance of being paid. It's not yet clear if the "mass layoffs" planned for Friday will still happen.[1]

Does anybody, anywhere, have a reliable self-driving car in use on public streets without a "safety driver"? Waymo did briefly, but backed off.

[1] https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/25/18758820/drive-ai-self-dr...

Is Waymo not driving fully autonomous in Phoenix still?

Edit: It looks like they aren't [1]

1: https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/7/18536003/waymo-lyft-self-d...

Thinking of the liability and the bad press had there is one accident occurred... Unless self-driving had been proven super reliable and all the regulation and liability had been sorted out like it is the case with aviation, I don't think any sane companies will risk that much.


Worth it for the domain name.

I think Apple is holding out for i.Drive instead. :)

Joke is great but raises a serious (well, non-joking) question.

iDrive is a brand used by a German car company (BMW? Audi?).

When the iPhone launched, it turned out after launch that Cisco owned the trademark.

When Apple got going they had a trademark dispute with Apple Records (the Beatles' publishing company) which was easily settled as Apple in California was clearly a computer company....until decades later they launched Apple Music.

So...your joke may not be off the mark.

New Apple products simply use the company's name followed by the generic name for the product. So, Apple Watch, Apple TV, Apple Pay, etc. Makes it almost impossible for another company to squat on a future product name

Yeah, they've been pretty deliberate about moving away from 'i' names lately. In macOS Catalina, even iTunes will be gone, replaced by Music.app. iMessage -> Messages, iBooks -> Books, etc. iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, iMac are the biggest holdouts, and they haven't named a new product iSomething for many years now.

Indeed. i is over.

Actually, iPadOS is perhaps a counter-example. But maybe they had no choice to keep name symmetry there.

I would say that iPadOS is the exception that proves the rule. The only reason it starts with an 'i' is because it's name derives directly from a 10 year old product.

I was not familiar with this expression "exception that proves the rule," but I agree.


Maybe iTDrives

Humanless Horseless Carriage

You make me wnoder where the self-driving horse-and-buggies are.

I phone, you drive — and by “you” I mean the car, driving itself.

They should name it uDrive.

Or Drive.me

iDrive is a BMW Brand.

Ironically, I wonder how many of the folks that were laid off recently (http://fortune.com/2016/09/11/apple-self-driving-car-layoffs...) landed a position at Drive.ai only to be brought back into the clan?

The price is interesting. An awful lot of the self-driving companies are hoping for a big acquisition. It reminds me of the SDN market just before VMware bought Nicira. And there wasn’t a second Nicira, not really.

This wasn't really a acquisition though. More like Apple buying some assets as Drive.ai gets liquidated.

That distinction is mostly not real. Startups that are losing altitude start looking for an acquirer no less than 6 months before they know they’re done. The very likely ran the gamut of every acquirer they could get connected to.

The case where companies run into the wall at full speed (a funding round fell through) mostly were very mismanaged.

Apple should just buy Tesla. What a story, helping the world with energy, driving safety, etc. Seeing Elon Musk as the CEO of Apple would be interesting to say the least. Beats somewhat lead the way for them to have different brands under their umbrella.

Musk as the CEO of Apple would be an unmitigated disaster.

Musk as the CEO of anything has been less than great. At PayPal e was forced out, at Tesla <no comment take your own conclusions> and at SpaceX my understand is he is at arm’s length and has someone else administer the company - which appears to be just about the smartest thing he’s done.

Gwynne Shotwell runs SpaceX. He could use a Shotwell for Tesla and focus on his strength: being outrageous and running his useful cult of personality. I’m not sure his behavior helps fundraising anymore.

Yeah pretty much. It’s fascinating why he hasn’t arrived at the same conclusion. The man has his strengths but the actual nuts and bolts of running a company day to day does not appear to be his sharpest edge. Surely even he can see that, sometimes? Makes me wonder how blind we can be to our own flaws...

I wonder how happy GeoHotz is about this development?

Is comma.ai interesting to other companies at all? They have a system for integrating into existing cruise control, which Apple doesn't need (they can drop money to get cars made for them). They also have a vision system which is not very secret - throw lots of video footage into a NN - which should be possible to replicate relatively easily. Apart from aquihire, why would anyone buy comma.ai?

Is comma.ai's driving system at all realistic in terms of actual capability? I don't own a compatiable car (nor have the knowledge or courage) otherwise I would love to install and try to use it.

A couple of years ago the founder was super confident that he would have a fully self driving car soon, and definitely before Tesla.

A couple of months ago I read that he decided the problem is basically unsolvable and a human will always need to be involved.

He's still right about being "before Tesla" as long as Tesla never figures it out either.

> A couple of months ago I read that he decided the problem is basically unsolvable and a human will always need to be involved.

Are you referring to the Engadget article? I understood him differently.

The copy on https://comma.ai/ has certainly changed tone from what it once was.

Now it is clearing pushing a driver-assist angle ("improves your stock ACC and LKAS," "copilot," "augment"). No mention of "self-driving," "autonomous," or the like.

Previously, it was clearly marketing a full-self-driving, no human involved system: "ghostriding for the masses," "software to make your car self driving."

It could be for liability reasons.

Depends what you expect from it. I think the official website describes it perfectly well: "openpilot improves your stock ACC and LKAS". It's a fancy, very active cruise control. From I've seen it seems to work really well.


I can think of at least one person.


Real old news

Personally, I will never let a machine take over controlling a automobile I'm in. Never.

They may be good enough some decades from now, but they are not now and we are a long, long way from getting to the point where they are.

This has been proven too many times already to trust my life in a machine doing highway speeds, and I trust them even less on streets and roads.

For the record, I've never caused an accident in my 46 years of driving. The only accident I've been in was with a dumbass who turned left in front of me at an intersection I'd already entered and I was able to minimize the impact by slowing down before they did that and steering into the least damaging hit for me because I was watching the driver's eyes and body and could see they were thinking about it and then decided to do it.

No self driving car can do that now and it will be a very long time before they can.

No self-driving car will turn left in front of you either. Pendulum swings both ways.

The self-driving car could very well have reacted faster than you ever could have, saving your life even in the many crash situations where you wouldn't have had any idea of the other driver's intention.

Or a self driving car, would have plowed ahead and never hit the brake.

There’s an assumption that self driving will be safer, but it’s not necessary (there’s very little public data with any reasonable detail), and plenty of anecdotes where the car did something very abnormal. Furthermore, you have self-driving backers like Andrew No, publicly moving the goal posts to justify the investments.

My point is, in 2019, self driving cars don’t work very well, and there’s little expectation that they will work well in the near to medium future, so it’s silly to sing their praises now.

My car saved my ass.

Southern Illinois, destination Niagara. Going through one small town after another. Flat. Boring. Autopilot is on. Highway is 4 lane divided, no service road. Occasional farmers market roads.

Driving for a couple of hours, not much to see (and smell) but farmland. Southern Illinois is incredibly boring. Start to pass an 18-wheeler on my right.

Not paying 100% attention because... boring.

Car starts freaking out, loud warning signals. Engages the brakes, hard. Some old lady had pulled out to cross the highway, so that she was halfway in my lane. Couldn’t see her because of 18-wheeler. She couldn’t see me for the same reason. Stupid.

Car saw her before I did, took appropriate measures. I would have been in a nasty wreck if if I hadn’t had it. She probably would have died, because I would have hit her driver’s side. Would have been nasty regardless.

So three cheers for autopilot from this driver. Saved the day.

More. Please.

What the hell was the 18 wheeler doing in the left lane?

Note that you didn’t need autopilot here, just collision avoidance system.

“on my right.”

He was in the right lane.

Oh, my bad.

"Not paying 100% attention because... boring."

Not to be demeaning but that is the cause of most vehicle accidents. So, you scare me more than self driving cars.

shrug You're not wrong, and the criticism is valid. I only object to the implication than I'm uniquely flawed in this regard. Everyone suffers from being tired or stressed. Minds wander, people drive home after the bar when they shouldn't, or on too little sleep when they have to get to work, or their kids fight in the back seat and demand attention. Etc., etc., ad infinitum.

Assisted driving technologies can help with the natural shortcomings of the bloodbags behind the wheel. Recognizing that I'm susceptible to those same flaws is one of the reasons I paid extra for Autopilot: I wanted the added safety. And it was a worthy investment.

I don't think you're uniquely flawed in this regard. In fact you're not.

I do think I am among those who make a point to pay very close attention to my driving and others on the road with me. I may be somewhat unique in this regard because I grew up working on cars that had been in crashes, and then went on to design and build vehicles for severally disabled people for over 15 years, many of whom were disable in vehicle crashes.

I don't think I'm flawless though, but I know for sure that no self driving car could have avoided the one accident I was in. It was similar to the Tesla that hit and killed the person who walked out in front of it. No person or computer could anticipate or avoid it.

As of right now, Tesla autos have been in way more accidents than I. I'm sure that collectively they've driven many more miles than I, but many of the accidents they've been in involved conditions that I have driven in many times and never made the mistakes they have.

You are a machine. Except you don't have 360 degree sensors or lidar.

But they do have free will and agency.

Your "free will" is at least mostly an illusion achieved by altering your sense of time.

Hooked up to machines to record microsecond by microsecond we can then watch things happen in order on the playback and see the trick done. First the human does something, then their brain assesses what was done and it constructs a story explanation for what was done. The human comes to believe that they did what they did on purpose for a reason - an exercise of free will, as established in the story, even though we can see that isn't the order in which it happened.

If you're sure you would know about this distortion I've got bad news. Your vision already depends on a similar trick that's been known for decades. Your eyes can't see anywhere near well enough to achieve what you think you can see. Instead a mechanism refreshes the details periodically while not giving you access, your image of the world is a composite assembled from a recent-ish focal image and guesses about what everything else probably still looks like. You feel like it's a live video feed, but it isn't, and it never has been your whole life.

Maybe this trick is only happening a lot of the time for small decisions, and we do have some mysterious free will, exactly the way we think we do but it's just much less often relevant than you intuit. But maybe the fact is that trick is all that was ever happening, we're not special except that we've deluded ourselves and that is sort of special in its own way.

Really interesting. Do you have any links you could share where I could read more about these ideas (both the freewill one and the vision one)

Transsaccadic memory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transsaccadic_memory is the name for the phenomenon I described for vision. It's uncontroversial that what we think we see is synthesised because saccades are definitely a thing, you can watch other people's eyes move while they report not changing where they're looking - but exactly how that synthesis works is not something for which you'll find widespread agreement. The experiment where you watch yourself looking at one eye then another in the mirror is a trivial one to do at home on your own though if you just want that sharp "Oh!" moment as a quick pay off. Why don't your eyes seem to move!

The underpinning idea in the free will thing is Wegner's idea, he's done various experiments about this e.g.: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10424155

Really keen to see how this would play out in a criminal court. Something like "your honour, I did shoot Steve repeatedly, but science shows that I can't be held accountable"?

Not really. If you’re stuck in rush hour traffic, your “free will” is limited by your immediate surroundings, specifically the cars around you. Sure, you could abandon your car and walk or something, but that’s not likely a rational choice.

Given that “free will” is limited, and doubly so when operating a vehicle, that’s not very much of a rebuttal.

Limited or not, it is different from having none at all.

Obviously it is up to the individual to quantify the loss.

FWIW, there is zero evidence that anything like the common conception of free will exists. It is basically a folk explanation for a decision matrix that has hundreds or thousands of inputs that are mostly opaque to the tools currently at our disposal. There is no reason to believe that there will be anything left which we can label "free will" once we are able to measure and quantify all of these inputs and the system operating on them.

FWIW, I would probably count that as a reason to prefer autonomous cars, not as a reason to prefer human drivers. People are pretty bad decision makers. I would much rather have life or death decisions made by a team of engineers using data from thousands of actual incidents to inform their thinking.

You must be looking forward Ai driven legal system and having your life partner determined by an ML gizmo.

There are a bunch of ways in which those are not comparable examples. Most drivers are amateurs; lawyers and judges are not. Choosing a life partner is not a life or death matter (for the most part). Nor does it affect people aside from yourself.

Driving has nothing to do with free will and agency. It's not art!

I know tons of developers clinging onto their old Macbooks who refuse to buy the new generation and many are changing to PC's.

My GoPro has a USB-C port on it. My USB-C to USB-C data cable won't recognise it on my MBP. Have to use USB-C > USB-A -> Dongle -> USB-C.

My left arrow key sticks after my keyboard replacement.

I still keep ghost tapping that damn escape key on the touchbar after 3 years.

Apple: Forget all that, let's invest in self driving cars and new watch bands.

The USB-C thing is a nightmare because you can’t extend Thunderbolt and every Thunderbolt accessory comes with some arbitrary length someone decided (usually about 20cm) that barely allows you to reorient the device next to the laptop where your hand is supposed to be.

There literally exists no male to female thunderbolt extenders in the usb-c form factor. I tried buying a non Intel approved one and hesitantly, after weighing the risks of even plugging it in, found it would power the Thunderbolt device but couldn’t move data.

(For the information of the reader, Thunderbolt exists above USB-C and USB-C connectors lack Thunderbolt data pins and hence downgrade Thunderbolt back to just regular USB-C)

This is by design. It is a unbelievably high-bandwidth interface. It has strict physical limitations and it is expensive to create products that are capable of pushing those limits, thus the 16" passive cable limitation in many affordable devices.This is all kind of annoying but enables creation of devices that were not possible before, and what on earth any of this has to do with USB-C which is an entirely different signal pathway without these particular limitations is anybody's guess.

(Mostly what I cannot suffer is the fools who position these limited passive connections on the wrong damn side of the device.)

The Lenovo 40AC0135US acts as a male to female extender (+ port replicator). I have one on a 6' 40GBPS 100W cable to my laptop, and the 40AC0135US has a female port allowing you to daisy chain X, has been working great the last 18 months with no issues, mac or PC.

In my case I did something like this (used an ALOGIC part) but glued the extender upside-down under the laptop stand with araldite since there was no easy way of mounting it out the way of my hands but close enough that the 15cm cable would reach.

Voided quite a few warranties working around the awkwardness

Really? I use a standard type C data cable to talk to my Mavic without problems. Perhaps you're using a power only cable?

The lack of standard labeling on type C connectors or cables is a slow motion disaster I agree. But your experience is quite a surprise.

Oh, you're saying that just because USB-C connectors fit physically doesn't mean they work together.

Interesting problem that I hadn't fully realized. Labeling would seem to be a good thing, that will never happen :)

Note that there are plenty of type A power cables that lack data lines as well, so this is not only a Type C problem.

These Type A charger cables are out of spec though, I believe.

As far as Type C goes, AFAIK there isn't a true "universal" cable available and probably there never will be (though a thunderbolt cable today is pretty close...but unlikely to support 100W power distribution). The reason I say "never will be" is that some of the high performance data transmission or power transmission are expensive and someone who only needs 15W of power and/or USB 2 won't want to pay for that. Plus new modes are being invented all the time.

The same thing happened with thunderbolt/mini display port. Different cables have different capabilities, even though all them use the same connect

There are a ton of USB-C to USB-C cables out there. Anker has quite a few on their product page: https://www.anker.com/products/110/163/usb-typec-cables

I am using one of these exact cables to transfer data off of my GoPro Hero 7. The standard one that came with my MacBook also worked.

Doesn't work with my Anker USB-C to USB-C Apparently because the GoPro is USB 3.0 not 3.1? I'm not sure. Can you link me to what cable you're using?

Yeah, Apple is not currently the shining example of the people I want in charge of our bright new autonomous future. Then again if it’s that or Google maybe they’re not so bad.

Apple is a pretty incredible engineering organization. They regularly deploy software updates to a fleet of billions of devices, largely without issue. A few years ago they deployed a brand new file system to almost a billion devices, also largely without issues. They're probably one of the few non-automotive, non-aeropsace organizations that you'd want engineering cars.

The point on AFPS is very compelling. Imagine risking that much of someone else's data.

They first deployed APFS in shadow mode, like Tesla does with autopilot testing.

Autopilot is reverse shadow right? Or does Tesla father data on how people drive when autopilot is switched off?

Yes, they compare predicted AP action with driver action.

Isn't the MacBooks charging cable USB c both sides??

I don't think Apple said "forget that." They make a killing selling overpriced adapters for everything.

What's sad is they talk about being a green company, and yet they choose nonsense cables, rather than just USB for their phones.

> They make a killing selling overpriced adapters for everything.

source? intuition about what volumes/margins you think they sell at is not sufficient.

Also, every one of their products but their phones have switched to USB-C, including iPads. It's just a matter of time until iPhone is USB-C as well.

USB-C didn't exist at the time when Lightning was released, so calling it a 'nonsense cable' is really just ridiculous.

lol, Apple a green company... don't they degrade their batteries and CPU through software to make people buy new hardware?

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