UK firm Wayve secures over £800m in funding to build AI for self-driving cars

7 May 2024, 09:34

Transport Secretary Mark Harper having a ride in a self-driving car being tested by automated driving company Wayve in Westminster
Transport Secretary Mark Harper in self-driving vehicle. Picture: PA

US giants Nvidia and Microsoft are among the firms to have contributed to the round of funding.

UK firm Wayve has secured 1.05 billion dollars (£837 million) in funding to build Artificial Intelligence (AI) products used to power self-driving cars.

Wayve is known as a pioneer in so-called Embodied AI for autonomous driving – effectively foundation models on which autonomous vehicles are built, enabling them to learn from and interact with a real-world environment.

The huge round of funding for Wayve is being led by Japanese tech giant Softbank, with Nvidia and existing investor Microsoft also backing the firm, which is the biggest investment ever in a UK AI firm.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “incredibly proud” of the investment and said it was a “testament to our leadership in this industry”.

Wayve co-founder and chief executive, Alex Kendall, said: “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.

“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.

“Our collaboration with SoftBank, NVIDIA, and Microsoft will help advance our mission to redefine driving with AI at the core.

“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.”

Wayve was founded in 2017 and is known for being the first to develop and test an end-to-end AI autonomous driving system on public roads, and has since expanded on this work with its Embodied AI developments.

Rishi Sunak talks to the media during his visit to OmNom
Rishi Sunak said he was ‘incredibly proud’ of the investment and said it was a testament to the UK’s ‘leadership’ in the industry (Henry Nicholls/PA)

“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,” the Prime Minister said.

“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. The fact that a homegrown, British business has secured the biggest investment yet in a UK AI company is a testament to our leadership in this industry, and that our plan for the economy is working.

“We are leaving no stone unturned to create the economic conditions for businesses to grow and thrive in the UK. We already have the third highest number of AI companies and private investment in AI in the world, and this announcement anchors the UK’s position as an AI superpower.”

By Press Association

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