Artificial intelligence Transportation & Logistics

British Self-Driving Car Maker Wayve Revs Up With Whopping $1B SoftBank-led Round

London-based self-driving car startup Wayve has raised $1.05 billion in a SoftBank-led round, marking one of the largest funding deals on record for a British startup and signaling continued investor fervor for all things artificial intelligence.

Nvidia and existing investor Microsoft, both active investors in the AI space, also joined in the Series C funding. Wayve has now raised $1.3 billion, per Crunchbase. It did not disclose a valuation for the latest funding.

The company was founded by PhD students at the University of Cambridge in 2017 and has been testing its technology on British roads since 2018. It employs approximately 300 people, according to The New York Times.

Its self-driving car technology works through embodied AI, or a system in which a real-world object such as a robot — or, in this case, a vehicle — powered by artificial intelligence software interacts with and continuously learns about the world as it travels through that environment. That approach differs from systems developed by companies such as Alphabet-owned Waymo, which rely heavily on technology such as lidar, radar, cameras and high-definition 3D maps.

Wayve’s business model is to sell its technology to other car manufacturers and robotics companies, TechCrunch noted.

“We want to enable all the auto manufacturers around the world to work with our AI, of course, across a wide variety of sources,” CEO and co-founder Alex Kendall told TechCrunch. “More importantly, we’ll get diverse data from different cars and markets, and that’s going to produce the most intelligent and capable embodied AI.”

Despite few billion-dollar funding deals on the scale of the Wayve raise, venture funding to AI-related startups increased slightly in Q1 2024 compared to Q4 2023, Crunchbase data shows. All told, around $12.2 billion was invested in venture-backed AI startups in 1,166 deals in Q1 —  a 4% uptick in dollar terms from last year’s final quarter, which saw $11.7 billion go to similar startups in 1,072 deals.

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Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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