Apple may be talking with British supercar maker McLaren to reignite its on-again, off-again automobile effort, but that’s not the only company the Cupertino, Calif. technology giant has approached in the last few months.
The iPhone maker has also conducted several meetings with Lit Motors, a San Francisco startup that has been attempting to build an enclosed electric motorcycle. According to sources close to the situation, Apple met with Lit CEO Daniel Kim earlier this year to discuss a potential acquisition.
Apple declined to comment. Kim also declined to comment for this story.
While Apple likely meets with dozen of companies across various industries every year, its interest in Lit shows that it may be looking for outside inspiration for its automobile undertaking, known internally as ”Titan.” Last month, The New York Times, which first detailed Apple’s interest in Lit on Wednesday, reported that dozens of employees had been laid off within the project, which was focused on developing a self-driving car to keep up with competitors such as Uber, Tesla Motors and Alphabet , the parent company of Google.
Lit Motor’s vision for transportation is unlike the one of self-driving passenger cars that has been pushed by Silicon Valley’s biggest companies. Founded in 2010, the company is the brainchild of Kim, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate who sought to build a smaller, more efficient vehicle. That idea resulted in the C-1, a two-wheeled, self-balancing prototype that garnered plenty of hype in 2012 after Kim demoed the vehicle at a San Francisco startup conference.
“It takes the safety and comfort of a car and marries it with that with the romance and efficiency of a motorcycle,” Kim told FORBES in Oct. 2012.
Despite Kim’s grand vision, few investors were willing to bet on the company. In six years, Kim has raised less than $5 million–a pittance in tech startup world–with initial capital coming from friends and family. In March 2014, the company raised a $1 million seed round with a motley set of investors including Zynga founder Mark Pincus, Korean billionaire Kim Jung-Ju and professional surfer Kelly Slater. Later that year, Alphabet CEO Larry Page also put money into Lit, though its unclear how much he invested. An Alphabet spokesperson did not return a request for comment on Page’s involvement....MORE
Lit Motors founder Daniel Kim sits in his C-1, a prototype for an enclosed electric motorcycle. (Eric Millette for Forbes)
Of course Luddites and other naysayers had to weigh in:
...But Lit would seem a very strange company for Apple to purchase. Aside from some admittedly nifty looking technology, Lit lacks any sort of manufacturing base, and has no knowledge or experience in the mass-produced car market. On top of that, Lit is focused on making a two-wheeled car, and we can't imagine Apple has a problem with cars in their current four-wheeled configuration. Like most other large companies, the tech giant is probably more interested in applying connected services and autonomous driving features to the proven automotive template....Yes but, but....electric!