UK’s self-driving startup Wayve vrooms $200M funding from Microsoft and more

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Autonomous startups promise a future soon — where lane traffic casualties and speeding tickets will be a thing of the past, and mobility will be transformed, irrespective of the environment. Consequently, a lots of them are getting huge amounts of funding too.

It was just yesterday when, France’s autonomous robot maker Exotec grabbed $335 million at $2B valuation — for its industrial self-driving vehicles. And today we some news from the famous autonomous startup in the UK.

Wayve, the London-based self-driving startup working aggressively on autonomous mobility announced today that it has zipped in $200 million Series B investments. 

The round brings total equity raised by the British mobility firm to over $258 million and the latest funding was led by Eclipse Ventures, long-time supporter of Wayve. The round also saw participation from new financial investors including D1 Capital Partners, Baillie Gifford, Moore Strategic Ventures and Linse Capital, as well as additional support from Microsoft and Virgin, and early-stage investors Compound and Balderton Capital.

With this move, they have joined strategic investor Ocado Group and a prominent list of angel investors that include AI and industrial leaders, such as Sir Richard Branson, Rosemary Leith, Linda Levinson, David Richter, Pieter Abbeel, and Yann LeCun. 

Alex Kendall, Co-founder and CEO, Wayve said: “We were the first team to develop the scientific breakthroughs in deep learning to build autonomous driving technology that can easily scale to new markets using a data-learned approach. Today, we have all of the pieces in place to take what we have pioneered and drive AV2.0 forward. We have brought together world-class strategic partners in transportation, grocery delivery and compute, along with the best capital resources to scale our core autonomy platform, trial products with our commercial fleet partners, and build the infrastructure to scale AV2.0 globally.” 

Wayve’s AV2.0: all you need to know

Founded in 2017, Wayve is already developing artificial intelligence (AI) software for self-driving cars and now has come up with the next generation of Autonomous Vehicle (AV) software dubbed Wayve’s AV2.0. The tech has been designed to become the most adaptable AV system for fleet operators. It combines the edge of a lean, camera-first sensing suite with the embodied intelligence of an end-to-end deep learning system that continually learns from petabyte-scale driving data provided by Wayve’s partner fleets, including Ocado Group, Asda, and DPD. 

By using machine learning, Wayve is building a more scalable AV platform that can quickly and safely adapt its driving intelligence to new cities, different use-cases and vehicle types. This unlocks the potential to scale commercial deployments to other cities more quickly than the conventional AV approach, which typically relies on an expensive and complex array of sensors and is operationally limited by HD maps and rules-based control strategies. 

Seth Winterroth, Partner, Eclipse Ventures said: “As the industry struggles to solve self-driving with traditional robotics, it is becoming increasingly clear that AV2.0 is the right pathway to build a scalable driving intelligence that can help commercial fleet operators deploy autonomy faster. Wayve is breaking new ground by building AVs that can adapt to driving in new cities, previously unseen in training. As the leaders in this field, they have assembled an exceptional team of machine learning experts and AV veterans to drive AV2.0 to reality.” 

Developing a Level 4+ AV prototype 

The new capital raised will enable Wayve to continue to grow its team, develop a Level 4+ AV prototype for passenger vehicles and delivery vans, scale its deployments on partner fleets to commence last-mile delivery pilots, and develop the data infrastructure to improve its core autonomy platform at fleet scale. With this, the Cambridge born startup intends to improve the accessibility of AV technology, allowing more businesses and individuals to benefit from safer, sustainable and more reliable forms of transportation. 

Jeff Lerman of D1 Capital Partners said: “We believe Wayve’s innovative AV2.0 technology has significant advantages over rules-based AV approaches, which can be limited by edge cases and a lack of modularity. In addition, we believe Wayve’s fleet partnerships enable high quality data collection at scale that serves as a competitive advantage. We are excited to back Alex and his team, who we view as industry pioneers.” 

Further, Microsoft will join as an investor. Since 2020, Wayve is using Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, to scale its machine learning platform. Azure is providing the compute and storage capabilities required to run autonomous driving development and testing workloads and conduct machine learning experimentation to improve autonomy performance. 

Wayve’s computer vision system – the “brain” of the car – comprehends from heeding human driving via reinforcement learning. Traditional self-driving systems depend on pricey Lidar sensors, HD maps and heavy testing in a local area, meaning that they cannot scale. Wayve’s systems have trained in one city and then successfully driven in a new city they’ve never seen before. This adaptability is why they aim to be the first to deploy self-driving technology in 100 cities.

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