Self-driving startup Wayve just raised $1 billion from Nvidia, SoftBank, Microsoft and more

Technology

Alex Kendall, 29, is the co-founder and CEO of autonomous driving startup Wayve.
Source: Wayve

British startup Wayve on Tuesday said it had raised $1.05 billion in an investment round led by Japan’s SoftBank to accelerate the growth of its self-driving car technology.

The Series C funding round included new investor U.S. chipmaker Nvidia and existing investor, software giant Microsoft, which is a major backer of AI firms.

The financing marks a major vote of confidence for the Cambridge-based firm. It also builds on the heaps of cash currently being deployed in the AI space.

“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 by seamlessly integrating into their everyday lives to unlock extraordinary value,” Alex Kendall, co-founder and CEO of Wayve, said in a statement.

“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.”

Founded in 2017, Wayve is one of a multitude of startups looking to enable autonomous driving — technology that enables cars to effectively drive without humans at the helm.

Unlike Tesla, which manufactures its own cars, Wayve licenses its self-driving technology to other firms, including retailers and automakers.

Vote of confidence for UK tech

Wayve relies on a series of cameras and sensors to map out its environmental surroundings to ensure cars can safely navigate around densely populated urban areas with little to no human supervision.

It says it is working toward the development of “embodied AI” technology for self-driving vehicles, which it describes as AI that can understand and adapt to unpredictable realities in the physical world.

For example, a car powered by self-driving technology driving down a residential road needs to be equipped for unpredictable situations like jaywalking.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak praised Wayve’s investment news Tuesday, saying that it was a “testament to our leadership in this industry.”

“From the first electric light bulb or the World Wide Web, to AI and self-driving cars – the UK has a proud record of being at the forefront of some of the biggest technological advancements in history,” Sunak said in a statement.

“I’m incredibly proud that the UK is the home for pioneers like Wayve who are breaking ground as they develop the next generation of AI models for self-driving cars.”

Between 2018 and 2022, the U.K. self-driving vehicle sector generated £475 million of direct investment and created 1,500 new jobs, the government said.

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