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Wayve Achieves Record AI Funding in UK with $1 Billion Series C Round

ByHuey Yee Ong

May 9, 2024

Wayve Achieves Record AI Funding in UK with $1 Billion Series C Round

Wayve, a U.K.-based startup focused on autonomous driving technologies, has secured $1.05 billion in Series C funding, establishing a record as the largest AI fundraise in the U.K. and placing it among the top 20 globally.

The funding round was led by SoftBank Group, with additional participation from Nvidia and existing investor Microsoft. The significant capital injection is set to accelerate the development of Wayve’s unique approach to autonomous driving, which relies on a self-learning system rather than traditional rule-based algorithms.

From Local Trials to Global Operations

Founded in 2017 in Cambridge, Wayve has quickly progressed from its initial trials on the compact streets of Cambridge using an electric Renault Twizy to training its autonomous systems on delivery vehicles for major companies like the U.K. grocery delivery service Ocado, which invested $13.6 million in the startup. This followed a substantial $200 million raised in a Series B round in January 2022, led by Eclipse Ventures.

What Sets Wayve’s Business Model Apart?

Wayve’s approach to autonomous driving technology stands out by not being limited to a single brand, like Tesla, but rather aims to provide its self-driving model to various automotive OEMs. This strategy not only broadens the potential market for Wayve’s technology but also enhances the variety and volume of data available for training its systems.

Although Wayve has yet to announce specific partnerships with car manufacturers, its business model suggests significant potential for widespread adoption across the industry.

The startup refers to its technology as “Embodied AI,” emphasizing its hardware-agnostic and mapless nature, which enables it to integrate with a diverse array of vehicles and robotic systems. This flexibility allows Wayve’s technology to adapt and learn from human behavior in various real-world environments.

Furthermore, Wayve is developing sophisticated multimodal and generative models, known as LINGO and GAIA, which will feature language-responsive interfaces, personalized driving styles, and capabilities that extend beyond simple navigation to include co-piloting functions.

Wayve’s CEO Vision

Alex Kendall, co-founder and CEO of Wayve, shared insights into the company’s journey and vision in a recent interview with TechCrunch. He highlighted that the inception of the company was driven by the ambition to build a pioneering AI capable of learning and operating autonomously in complex environments.

According to Kendall, the automotive industry’s recent adoption of advanced sensors and processing units has been a critical enabler for integrating AI more deeply into automotive technology, moving from basic assisted driving to fully autonomous operations.

Kendall’s optimism is mirrored in the broader implications of Wayve’s success for the U.K.’s technological landscape. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak remarked on the national significance of this funding round, linking it to the U.K.’s historical role in major technological advancements and affirming the government’s support for AI innovation. He emphasized the strategic importance of fostering an environment conducive to growth and innovation in cutting-edge technologies like AI and autonomous driving.

Additionally, Kentaro Matsui, a managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers and a board member at Wayve, commented on the transformative potential of AI in mobility. He envisioned a future where AI-driven technology could drastically reduce traffic accidents, enhancing safety and efficiency in transportation.

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Featured Image courtesy of Wayve

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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