Wayve raises $1B to take its Tesla-like technology for self-driving to many carmakers

Image credits: Alex Kendall CEO, Wayve

Wayve, a UK-born startup developing a self-learning rather than rules-based system for autonomous driving, has closed $1.05 billion in Series C funding led by SoftBank Group. It is the largest AI fundraiser ever in the UK and is among the top 20 AI fundraisers in the world to date.

Nvidia and existing investor Microsoft also participated in the raise. Among Waye’s early investors was Yann LeCun, Meta’s head of AI.

Wayve, founded in Cambridge in 2017, raised $200 million in a Series B round in January 2022 led by Eclipse Ventures.

The company plans to use this new capital infusion to develop its product for “eye-assisted” and “yes” fully automated driving and other AI-assisted automotive applications. It plans to expand its operations globally.

San Francisco has become known as the epicenter of autonomous driving deployment, with Alphabet-owned Waymo and GM-owned Cruise both operating services in the city. In contrast, Wayve’s “end-to-end” autonomous driving system began life on the back streets of Cambridge on an electric Renault Twizy.

Since then, it has trained its model on delivery vehicles for companies like British grocery delivery company Ocado, which invested $13.6 million in the startup.

Wayve’s approach to autonomous driving is similar to Tesla’s, but Wayve plans to sell its autonomous driving model to various automakers. The implication, of course, is that Wayve will collect a lot more training data on which to improve its model, because Tesla has to rely on someone buying its brand of car. The company, however, is yet to announce any such automotive partners.

Wayve calls its hardware-agnostic mapless product “embedded AI” and plans to distribute its platform not only to automakers, but also to robotics companies serving manufacturers of all kinds, allowing the platform to learn of human behavior in a wide variety of areas. real-world environments. The company’s research into multimodal and generative models, known as LINGO and GAIA, will offer “language-aware interfaces, personalized driving styles and co-driving,” the company promises.

Wayve co-founder and CEO Alex Kendall told TechCrunch: “Seven years ago we started the company to build embodied AI. We’ve been headlong into building technology… What happened last year was that everything really started to work.

He said the key moment was the auto industry’s “step change” toward cameras surrounding new cars, from which Wayve can extract data for its autonomous platform: “Now their production vehicles are coming out with GPUs, surrounding cameras, radars and Of course, the appetite to now integrate AI and enable an accelerated transition from assisted driving to automated driving. This fundraising is therefore a validation of our technological approach, and gives us the capital necessary to transform this technology into a product and bring this product to the market.

He added that Wayve also has big plans in robotics.

“Very soon, you’ll be able to buy a new car, and it will feature Wayve’s AI… That will then enable all kinds of embodied AI, not just cars, but other forms of robotics. I think the ultimate thing we want to achieve here is to go way beyond what AI is today with language models and chatbots. But to actually enable a future where we can trust intelligent machines that we can delegate tasks to, and of course they can improve our lives and autonomous driving will be the first example of that.

In a move that demonstrates the importance of the fundraiser more widely to the UK, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak issued a statement of support, saying: “From the first light bulb or the World Wide Web, to the hen AI and self-driving cars, the UK is proud to be at the forefront of some of the biggest technological advances in history.

“I am incredibly proud that the UK is home to pioneers like Wayve, who are innovating by developing the next generation of AI models for self-driving cars. “For a local UK company to have secured the largest ever investment in a UK AI company is testament to our leadership in this sector and that our plan for the economy is working,” he said.

“We are working hard to create the economic conditions for businesses to grow and prosper in the UK. We already have the third highest number of AI companies and private investment in AI in the world, and this announcement anchors the UK’s position as an AI country. superpower,” he added.

Also in a statement, Kentaro Matsui, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers and Wayve board member, said: “AI is revolutionizing mobility…The potential of this type of technology is transformative; this could eliminate 99% of road accidents. SoftBank Group is excited to be at the forefront of this effort with Wayve, as advanced intelligence redefines mobility and connectivity, contributing to a more convenient and secure society.

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Sara Adm

Aimant les mots, Sara Smith a commencé à écrire dès son plus jeune âge. En tant qu'éditeur en chef de son journal scolaire, il met en valeur ses compétences en racontant des récits impactants. Smith a ensuite étudié le journalisme à l'université Columbia, où il est diplômé en tête de sa classe. Après avoir étudié au New York Times, Sara décroche un poste de journaliste de nouvelles. Depuis dix ans, il a couvert des événements majeurs tels que les élections présidentielles et les catastrophes naturelles. Il a été acclamé pour sa capacité à créer des récits captivants qui capturent l'expérience humaine.
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