The consolidation is moving forward in the world of autonomous driving, with the latest development coming out of Europe. Bosch announced today that it is acquiring Five.ai, the autonomous driving startup that started out with big ambitions to build and operate its own fleet of robotic axes, but eventually turned to focus on technology development as a B2B game.
Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed, the companies said, but Five was looking for a buyer and Bosch said it secured the deal by beating “other takeover bidders.” Not only will it pick up IP from Five, but also about 140 employees in the UK. Bosch noted that the acquisition is still pending approval from regulators, especially antitrust authorities. It should take about two months to close.
Five had raised about $78 million in funding, and according to PitchBook data, the latest round was valued at $216 million, a $41 million investment in March 2020 that coincided with the company’s B2B pivot.
Five’s investors were a mix of strategic and financial financiers, including insurance giant Direct Line, the UK government and VCs such as Notion and Lakestar… as well as Sistema, the Russian investment giant listed in London and having the effects of the sanctions. felt in its home country: It recently said it may have to be removed from the LSE over a law Russia seems willing to pass, requiring Russian companies to end their foreign custodial programs.
“Bosch plans to acquire all shares in Five and we are and will of course continue to comply with all legal and statutory requirements, including sanctions,” a spokesperson said when asked about Sistema’s minority stake in Five. As far as we understand, Bosch would put money in a holding account if necessary due to sanctions.
Bosch itself has long been involved in self-driving car technology, although, like many, it has its ambitions: it is a major OEM and supplier to the automotive industry and forged a partnership with Daimler in 2017, where it promised fully autonomous vehicles within five years. (which would be… 2022) — have been surpassed by the self-driving reality. That was also a hard truth for Five.
“A year and a bit ago we thought we would probably build the whole thing and market it as a whole system,” co-founder and CEO Stan Boland told me in 2020. “But gradually we realized how deep and complex that would be. It was probably until 2019 that we realized that it is the right choice to focus on the most important parts.”
All things considered, Five had been very quiet lately: It last updated its news feed with a partnership with another autonomous tech startup, Cognata, in January 2021, more than a year ago; and the last blog post on Medium, on agile working, was in June 2021.
Just as Five was focused on a pivot to software, Bosch is already a very active player in that market and how it compares to autonomous systems and other next-generation software and hardware, but it has also invested in autonomous vehicle companies, too: it is on Momenta’s list of strategic constituencies in China.
“Automated driving should make road traffic safer. We want Five to give further impetus to our work in software development for safe automated driving and bring European-made technology to our customers,” said Dr. Markus Heyn, member of the board of directors of Bosch and chairman of the Mobility Solutions business sector. Five, headquartered in Cambridge, UK, will become part of the Bosch Cross-Domain Computing Solutions division.
“Scale is important when building automated driving technology. Bosch is a global leader in driver assistance technologies, with core technologies and huge lakes of data that will be essential to bring safe self-driving systems to market. We are delighted that Five will become part of Europe’s most powerful SAE Level 4 player and part of Bosch’s future success,” added Stan Boland in a statement in today’s announcement.
The deal comes amid a number of other mergers and acquisitions in the autonomous vehicle world, including Magna acquiring Optimus Ride’s assets; GM buys out SoftBank’s stake in Cruise; VW reportedly wants to buy out Huawei’s autonomous power unit; Lidar specialist Luminar buys Freedom Photonics; and more.
Updated with comments from Bosch regarding Sistema’s importance in Five.