AI powered self-driving car UK firm called Wayve raised $1 billion

Microsoft, Nvidia, and other leading companies are backing Wayve in its latest funding round, which is spearheaded by SoftBank. This marks the most significant investment in a European AI company to date.

Wayve plans to use this funding to contribute to the development of future autonomous vehicles.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has hailed this as a move that “anchors the UK’s position as an AI superpower”. He further added, “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”.

Alex Kendall, the head of Wayve, said, “[The investment] sends a crucial signal to the market of the strength of the UK’s AI ecosystem, and we look forward to watching more AI companies here thrive and scale.”

However, it’s worth noting that the world’s most valuable AI firms are still predominantly based in the United States or China.

The UK’s competition watchdog is currently investigating whether a few large tech firms are on track to monopolize a significant portion of the market.

On the topic of transport revolution, Wayve is working on a technology known as “embodied AI” to power future self-driving vehicles. This technology differs from traditional AI models as it interacts with and learns from real-world surroundings and environments, rather than performing cognitive or generative tasks.

UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper announced in November that self-driving vehicles could be seen on some UK roads by 2026.

The government is expected to soon pass its rules of the road for automated vehicles, which it believes will “unlock a transport revolution”. The Automated Vehicles Bill, which is currently being considered by parliament, aims to establish a regulatory framework for the safe use of cars equipped with assistive or autonomous driving features on UK roads.

However, the journey towards international adoption of self-driving technology has not been without hurdles.

US regulators are still investigating the safety of AI-powered assistive driving features from various manufacturers following fatal crashes. Ford is the latest car maker to come under scrutiny by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) over its BlueCruise driving tech used in its Mustang Mach-E cars.

Tesla, owned by tech billionaire Elon Musk, had to recall over two million vehicles in December following an NHTSA investigation into the safety of its assistive driving system, Autopilot. The regulator has recently requested Tesla to provide information relating to its fix as it investigates whether this was sufficient to address its concerns.