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Wayve raises $1B to provide Tesla-like self-driving technology to numerous automakers.

SoftBank Group led $1.05 billion in Series C fundraising for Wayve, a U.K.-based business creating a self-learning autonomous driving system as opposed to a rule-based approach. This ranks among the top 20 AI fundraising efforts globally to date and represents the largest AI fundraising event in the United Kingdom.

Nvidia and Microsoft, a current investor, also participated in the fundraising. Yann LeCun, the AI leader at Meta, was among the early investors in Wayve.

Established in Cambridge in 2017, Wayve secured $200 million in Series B financing headed by Eclipse Ventures, which previously led the company’s $20 million Series A round in 2019.

Using the new investment, the business intends to advance its product for fully autonomous driving, “hands-off” driving, and other AI-assisted automotive applications. Plans include international expansion.

With Alphabet-owned Waymo and GM-owned Cruise both running services in the city, San Francisco has emerged as the hub for autonomous driving rollouts. By contrast, Wayve’s “end-to-end” self-driving system started off driving an electric Renault Twizy, a two-seat microcar, around Cambridge’s little streets.

Ever since then, it has been honing its model on delivery trucks for clients such as Ocado, a $13.6 million investment in the startup by a grocery delivery firm in the UK.

While Wayve and Tesla take a similar approach to autonomous driving, Wayve intends to offer its autonomous driving concept to a variety of vehicle manufacturers. Naturally, because Tesla has to depend on someone purchasing their vehicle brand, Wayve will have a lot more training data on which to enhance its model. Still, the business has not yet disclosed any of these car partners.

Wayve refers to their hardware-agnostic mapless product as “embodied AI,” and it intends to offer its platform to robotics companies that serve manufacturers of all kinds in addition to automakers, enabling the platform to learn from human behavior in a broad range of real-world settings. Language-responsive interfaces, customized driving styles, and co-piloting are among the benefits the business promises from its multimodal and generative model research, known as LINGO and GAIA.

Alex Kendall, the CEO and co-founder of Wayve, founded the firm seven years ago with the goal of creating an embodied AI. Heads down, we have been developing technology. Everything truly began to work last year.

“Now their production vehicles are coming out with GPUs, surrounding cameras, radar, and of course the appetite to now bring AI onto, and enable, an accelerated journey from assisted to automated driving,” he said, citing the automotive industry’s “step change” into having cameras surrounding new cars from which Wayve can gather data for its autonomous platform. This fundraiser, therefore, validates our technical strategy and provides us with the funds to proceed to develop this technology into a product and launch it into the market.

Wayve, he said, also has ambitious goals for robots.

“You’ll be able to purchase a new automobile with Wayve’s AI installed very shortly. This then allows for additional robots and car-based embodied AI. In my opinion, we want to go far beyond where AI is now with language models and chatbots is, in my opinion, what we want to do here. But self-driving will be the first example of how to really create a future where we can trust intelligent robots that we can delegate work to, and of course, they can enrich our lives.

“From the first electric light bulb or the World Wide Web to AI and self-driving cars, the U.K. has a proud record of being at the forefront of some of the biggest technological advancements in history,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement, indicating the significance of this fundraising more broadly to the U.K.

“It gives me great pride that the United Kingdom is home to trailblazers like Wayve who are creating the next wave of AI models for autonomous vehicles. The fact that a homegrown British firm has secured the largest investment to date in a U.K. AI company demonstrates our leadership in this field and the success of our economic strategy, he added.

We are doing everything in our power to provide the economic framework that will enable companies to expand and prosper in the United Kingdom. As the third-largest number of AI businesses and private investment in the world already, this news solidifies the U.K.’s standing as an AI powerhouse, he said.

Wayve board member and managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers Kentaro Matsui said in a statement: “AI is revolutionizing mobility.” This kind of technology has revolutionary potential; it may totally stop road accidents. It gives SoftBank Group great pleasure to lead this endeavor alongside Wayve as cutting-edge intelligence reimagines connection and mobility, making society more secure and convenient.

Juliet P.
Author: Juliet P.

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