London firm Wayve has picked up around £850 million to accelerate its mission of integrating embodied artificial intelligence into autonomous driving systems.

The Series C funding round was led by SoftBank Group with contributions from new investor NVIDIA and existing investor Microsoft. 

Embodied AI represents the next frontier of AI innovation, going beyond generative AI and large language models. Wayve says the integration of embodied AI into vehicles and robots will lead to a paradigm shift in how machines interact with and learn from human behaviour in real-world environments. 

This innovation holds tremendous potential to enhance the usability and safety of autonomous driving systems, empowering them with the intelligence to confidently navigate situations that do not follow strict patterns or rules, such as unexpected actions by drivers, pedestrians or environmental elements.

Founded in 2017, Wayve has emerged as a trailblazer in the field of embodied AI for autonomous driving, as the first company to develop and test an end-to-end AI autonomous driving system on public roads. 

Wayve has successfully developed foundation models for autonomy, similar to a ‘GPT for driving’, that can empower any vehicle to perceive its surroundings and safely drive through diverse environments.

It has developed hardware-agnostic AI driving models for mapless autonomous driving and a suite of innovative technologies, such as fleet learning, data infrastructure, evaluation, and simulation platforms designed to rapidly enhance their AI models using real-world and simulated data.

“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,” said Alex Kendall, co-founder and CEO of Wayve.

“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.”

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Kentaro Matsui, managing partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers and head of the new business office at SoftBank Group, has joined Wayve’s board of directors.

“AI is revolutionising mobility,” he said. “Vehicles can now interpret their surroundings like humans, enabling enhanced decision-making that promises higher safety standards. The potential of this type of technology is transformative; it could eliminate 99% of traffic accidents. 

“SoftBank Group is delighted to be at the forefront of this effort with Wayve, as advanced intelligence redefines mobility and connectivity, contributing to a more convenient and safer society.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak added: “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.

“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 company has secured the biggest investment yet in a UK AI start-up 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 start-ups 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.”

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