Self-Driving Car Startup Drive.ai May Be Looking for Buyer: Report

The business of autonomous cars and ride-hailing is getting more and more competitive.

Drive.ai

Self-driving cars may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but the truth is that they're still subject to the realities of the business world. The number of companies large and small developing autonomous cars and related tech is growing, making the field more competitive. According to The Information, that's led autonomous-driving startup Drive.ai to search for a buyer.

Citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, The Information reported that Drive.ai is shopping itself around to "bigger rivals," and hired an investment bank as an advisor. 

Drive.ai has declined to comment about a possible sale but did tell The Information that it routinely participates in "strategic partnership discussions" with other companies. It's possible that Drive.ai is looking for a new investor or partner, rather than a buyer.

California-based Drive.ai was one of the first companies to offer rides to members of the public in prototype self-driving cars. The startup's modified Nissan NV200 vans began plying the streets of Frisco, Texas, last year. But bigger players with more resources and greater name recognition are now doing the same. You can hail a prototype self-driving car in Las Vegas using the Lyft app, or ride in a Waymo autonomous minivan around the Phoenix metro area.

Drive.ai's smaller size makes it hard to compete with the likes of Waymo, which is part of the Google empire. That would explain plans for a sale. Startup NuTonomy, for example, was also one of the first companies to offer rides in self-driving cars. But it was eventually swallowed up by Delphi (now Aptiv).

The self-driving car industry is a lot bigger than it seems. The consumer-facing side may only consist of a handful of pilot programs, with big names like Waymo, Uber, and General Motors' Cruise grabbing headlines, but there are many other companies trying to carve out a niche as well. Much like in the early days of the car industry, it's possible that many of these smaller companies will get absorbed by larger competitors, or just fall by the wayside.