Wayve secures over $1B to develop AI for self-driving vehicles

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Wayve has secured $1.05 billion to develop next-generation “embodied AI” technology for self-driving vehicles.

The funding round for the UK startup was backed by major tech giants like SoftBank Group, NVIDIA, and Microsoft. Wayve plans to use these funds to advance their embodied AI approach, which will enable self-driving cars to learn from and navigate the real world—including unpredictable situations involving other drivers and pedestrians.

Wayve co-founder and CEO Alex Kendall highlighted the UK’s “rich and inspiring AI heritage” with top talent, universities, and innovation-friendly rules that supported their rapid AI development. He said the investment “sends a crucial signal to the market of the strength of the UK’s AI ecosystem.”

Between 2018-2022 alone, the UK’s self-driving sector generated £475 million in investment and created 1,500 new jobs. By 2035, experts forecast the UK self-driving vehicle industry will be worth £42 billion and create 38,000 skilled jobs.

The country’s AI market is also projected to grow to over $1 trillion by that time, with the sector already employing over 50,000 people and contributing £3.7 billion annually to the economy.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak celebrated the announcement, stating: “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.”

Founded in 2017, Wayve credits the UK’s Code of Practice for enabling safe self-driving vehicle trials through a flexible, pro-innovation approach focused on company accountability rather than burdensome regulations.

“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,” added Sunak.

The new Automated Vehicle Bill is expected to establish one of the most comprehensive legal frameworks for autonomous vehicles worldwide when it passes in the coming weeks. All self-driving cars will require robust safety testing, and the law will clarify liability when vehicles operate themselves.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper underscored how self-driving cars “will revolutionise road travel – making it safer and more convenient for everyone.” Given that 88 percent of crashes currently involve human error, automated vehicles could significantly reduce costs, injuries, and fatalities on roads.

Science Minister Michelle Donelan praised Wayve as “a true homegrown success story” and said the investment affirms the UK’s status as “an AI and innovation powerhouse” attracting money through its “pro-innovation approach” to managing transformative technologies.

Wayve’s record funding closely follows major commitments to the UK auto industry by BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, and Nissan. Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch said “This is the latest in a long line of fantastic investments in the UK automotive sector.”

The UK boasts the third highest number of AI companies and AI investment globally after just the US and China. It has attracted the first international offices for AI pioneers like OpenAI and Anthropic, while being home to DeepMind since its founding over a decade ago.

While avoiding EU-like heavy legislation that could stifle AI development, the UK is focused on empowering expert regulators and driving safety standards. It invested £100 million in the world’s first AI Safety Institute, hosted the first global AI safety summit, signed a pact with the US to develop safety tests, and will co-host the AI Seoul Summit with South Korea later this month.

(Image Credit: Wayve)

See also: Tesla unveils more details about driverless ride-hailing service

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