UK driverless car company Wayve raises $1 billion in funding

SoftBank, Nvidia and Microsoft are putting money into the British start-up as it looks to accelerate its quest to integrate AI into vehicles

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak with Wayve Technologies co-founder and chief executive Alex Kendall alongside an autonomous car in London. AFP
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Three of the world's largest tech firms have contributed $1 billion to a British artificial intelligence start-up that seeks to make autonomous driving a common reality.

London-based Wayve announced $1.05 billion of investment led by SoftBank, with money from new investor Nvidia as well as more funds from existing investor Microsoft, to “accelerate its mission to reimagine autonomous mobility through embodied intelligence”.

Embodied AI, which is integrated into vehicles and robots, aims to transform how machines interact with, comprehend, and learn from human behaviour in real situations. Wayve is working towards developing AI systems which will make autonomous driving systems safer and more user-friendly.

“Our vision is to develop autonomous technology that not only becomes a reality in millions of vehicles but also earns people’s trust by seamlessly integrating into their everyday lives to unlock extraordinary value,” said Alex Kendall, co-founder and chief executive of Wayve.

“This significant funding milestone highlights our team’s unwavering conviction that Embodied AI will address the long-standing challenges the industry has faced in scaling this technology to everyone, everywhere.”

Embodied AI is seen as the next frontier in artificial intelligence and a step beyond both Generative AI and large language models. Wayve is developing it so that driverless cars would be able to react to unexpected actions by drivers, pedestrians, or environmental elements.

'Revolutionising mobility'

The Series C funding round (usually the fourth round of money-raising for start-ups) is the largest-ever venture capital investment in a European AI start-up company and could value Wayve in the billions of dollars. As part of the investment, SoftBank will take a seat on Wayve's board of directors, which will be filled by Kentaro Matsui, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers.

“AI is revolutionising mobility,” Mr Matsui said.

“Vehicles can now interpret their surroundings like humans, enabling enhanced decision-making that promises higher safety standards. The potential of this type of technology is transformative; it could eliminate 99 per cent of traffic accidents.

“SoftBank Group is delighted to be at the forefront of this effort with Wayve, as advanced intelligence redefines mobility and connectivity, contributing to a more convenient and safer society.”

Wayve was founded in a garage in 2017 by Cambridge University students Alex Kendall and Amar Shah.

The company was the first to develop and test an end-to-end AI autonomous driving system on public roads. As such, Wayve is continuing to develop AI technology that can enable any vehicle to perceive its surroundings and safely drive through a host of different situations and conditions.

Updated: May 07, 2024, 5:23 PM