British autonomous vehicle startup Wayve has raised a $200 million Series B funding round from investors to scale its technology and expand its partnerships with commercial fleets. Wayve is aiming to be a major player in the arena of Robo-deliveries and logistics.
It’s now raised a total of $258 million to date for its technology, which relies largely on commodity video cameras around the vehicle tied to on-vehicle AI-driven software, making it highly responsive to its surroundings as it relies less on being connected to 4 or 5G networks.
Eclipse Ventures, a previous investor, led the round. Other participating investors include D1 Capital Partners, Baillie Gifford, Moore Strategic Ventures and Linse Capital, as well as Microsoft and Virgin, and early-stage investors Compound and Balderton Capital. They join strategic investor Ocado Group and angel investors, including Sir Richard Branson, Rosemary Leith, Linda Levinson, David Richter, Pieter Abbeel, and Yann LeCun.
Wayve CEO Alex Kendall says Wayve’s test vehicles have managed to successfully negotiate not only London but also cities its vehicles have never been to previously. Given U.K. streets are typically medieval in layout, this is no mean feat.
Ocado, the U.K. online grocery technology company, previously invested $13.6 million in Wayve and entered into an autonomous delivery trial with the startup, as has British supermarket chain Asda.
Wayve says its AV2.0 technology is designed specifically for fleet operators, combining a camera-first approach with an embedded AI that continually learns from driving data provided by Wayve’s other partner fleets. The startup’s view is that this makes it a more scalable AV platform than so-called “AV1,0” which requires lots of input from data outside the vehicle like traffic reports, street maps and a complex array of sensors.
Seth Winterroth, partner, Eclipse Ventures, said: “As the industry struggles to solve self-driving with traditional robotics, it is becoming increasingly clear that AV2.0 is the right pathway to build a scalable driving intelligence that can help commercial fleet operators deploy autonomy faster.”
Speaking to TechCrunch Kendall added: “I think this funding round is a signal from the market that we are transitioning from proving out the core technology to now having earned the right to scale and be commercially deployed. When we started the business in 2017, that was the peak hype cycle point of autonomous vehicles, with billions of dollars already invested. Everyone thought it was a year away.”
“And to go and build a contrarian startup to compete against trillion-dollar tech giants might have been a little bit crazy. But the proof points have allowed us to move to this next level of scale. This is our ability to test in multiple cities. The fact that we’ve trained a system in London, and gone U.K.-wide in Manchester Coventry, Leeds, Liverpool, all over the U.K. Plus all these commercial partners and the incredible talent that we’ve been able to attract to our team,” he said.