AI Company Raises $1B to Power Self-Driving Cars

London-based startup will be developing ‘Embodied AI’ products for autonomous driving

Graham Hope

May 15, 2024

3 Min Read

British artificial intelligence company Wayve has raised more than $1 billion to develop self-driving tech.

The London-based start-up confirmed a series C investment round of $1.05 billion that will be used to evolve “Embodied AI” products for autonomous driving.

It’s the largest investment to date in a European AI start-up, with big-name backers including Japan’s SoftBank – which led the funding round – Nvidia and Microsoft.

As we have seen from the many companies developing self-driving products around the world, there are different approaches to delivering autonomy. Wayve’s solution has more of a reliance on AI than some, is hardware-agnostic and does not use mapping.

Embodied AI is described by the firm as an integration of “advanced AI into vehicles and robots to transform how machines interact with, comprehend and learn from human behavior in real-world environments.”

Wayve claims to have been pioneering this approach since its foundation in 2017, and says it is the first company to develop and test an end-to-end deep learning autonomous driving system on public roads.

It’s already attracted some famous fans, including Bill Gates, who enjoyed a “memorable” ride in a Wayve AV in London last year.

Currently, Wayve is building foundation models for autonomy that it describes as like a “Chat GPT for driving.” These will allow vehicles to see, think and drive in any environment and in the longer term, the company’s plan is to launch products that can be applied to vehicles from OEMs, although it does not have any deals in place as of yet.

Related:Language Model Enhances Road Navigation, Provides Commentary

These products will allow automakers to upgrade cars from Level 2 driver assistance to Level 4 full autonomy, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

One advantage of the Embodied AI approach, says Wayve, is that it will endow autonomous driving systems with the intelligence to confidently navigate so-called edge cases – scenarios which do not follow set patterns and which a human driver, for example, would generally respond spontaneously to.

These have traditionally caused problems for autonomous vehicles (AVs).

Automakers (and fleet owners) will also be able to leverage Wayve’s proprietary tools to generate data for further learning, while the company’s research on multimodal and generative models – known as LINGO and GIAI – will eventually “offer advanced features like intuition, language-responsive interfaces, personalized driving styles and co-piloting.”

The funding, which follows a $200 million round in January 2022, was hailed by Wayve CEO Alex Kendall.

Related:Microsoft, Virgin back British AV startup Wayve

“At Wayve, our vision is to develop autonomous technology that not only becomes a reality in millions of vehicles but also earns people’s trust,” he said. “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.

“This investment will enable us to develop and launch our first Embodied AI products for the automotive industry, empowering OEMs to provide consumers with trustworthy and beneficial automated driving experiences.”

Recognizing the importance of the deal for the U.K., Prime Minister Rishi Sunak added: “The fact that a homegrown, British business has secured the biggest investment yet in a U.K. AI company is a testament to our leadership in this industry.”

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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