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Wayve, an artificial intelligence startup for autonomous driving, raises $1 billion| GuyWhoKnowsThings


Wayve, a London maker of artificial intelligence systems for autonomous vehicles, said on Tuesday it had raised $1 billion, a surprising sum for a European startup and an illustration of investor optimism about AI's ability to remodel industries.

SoftBank, the Japanese conglomerate that backed Uber and other tech companies, was the lead investor, along with Microsoft and Nvidia. Previous investors in Wayve include Yann LeCun, chief AI scientist at Meta.

Wayve, which had previously raised around $300 million, did not disclose its valuation after the investment.

Wayve was co-founded in 2017 by Alex Kendall, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge focused on computer vision and robotics. Unlike generative AI models, which create human-like text and images and are being developed by OpenAI, Google and Anthropic, the so-called embedded AI systems made by Wayve serve as brains for physical objects, be they cars, robots or manufacturing systems. AI allows a machine to make decisions on its own in real time.

“The full potential of AI is achieved when we have machines in the physical world that we can trust,” Kendall said.

Companies focused on autonomous driving face a bumpy period. The technology is expensive and difficult to build and faces intense regulatory scrutiny. General Motors' self-driving subsidiary Cruise took its self-driving cars off the road last year amid legal and safety concerns. apple recently abandoned its autonomous vehicle efforts after years of development.

Wayve, which has around 300 employees, has been testing its technology on British roads since 2018 and will soon expand elsewhere. The software leverages cameras, sensors and other modern car technologies to see and react to different driving environments. Data collected as the car navigates a town or city is fed back to the artificial intelligence system to help the cars learn.

The approach differs from that of other autonomous vehicle developers such as Waymo, which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet. Wayve said its technology does not rely as much on high-definition maps or lidar sensors, a laser tool used to measure distances and detect objects. Tesla has used a similar approach to Wayve in recent years.

Wayve has been creating software to explain in plain language why a car made a certain driving decision (such as why it suddenly stopped or slowed down), a layer of transparency to help win over regulators.

The amount raised by Wayve is among the largest recent investments in startups in Europe, which has historically lagged behind the United States in venture capital and technology financing. In December, Mistrala French artificial intelligence developer, raised 385 million euros, or about $415 million.

“I am incredibly proud that the UK is home to pioneers like Wayve, who are blazing trails in developing the next generation of AI models for autonomous vehicles,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.

Kendall, who is from New Zealand, said the investment from SoftBank and others would allow the company to turn its research into a full commercial product. He said Wayve was negotiating with several large automakers to make its software available for purchase, but declined to name them.


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