Wayve Driving In Leeds

UK start-up attracts $200m ahead of driverless delivery trials for Asda and Ocado

Image credit: Wayve

A UK-based autonomous vehicle firm has received $200m (£146m) in backing from investors as it prepares to start making driverless deliveries for the likes of Ocado and Asda.

Wayve's AV2.0 technology, which has been designed around a “camera-first sensing suite”, has been designed to adapt depending on the needs of the fleet operator.

It uses machine learning to help it quickly adapt to new cities and environments as well as different vehicle types by making use of “petabyte-scale” driving data harvested from its partner fleets.

Wayve said their approach allows it to more easily scale for commercial deployments in different cities when compared to other autonomous systems which typically rely on an expensive and complex array of sensors and are operationally limited by HD maps and rules-based control strategies.

Wayve Driving In Coventry

Image credit: Wayve

Last year, the firm signed deals with Ocado and Asda to start testing deliveries which will feature a safety driver in the van.

It’s latest funding round attracted big name investors including Microsoft, Virgin and Bailie Gifford in a major cash injection that more than tripled the $58m it had previously raised.

Starting in London, Wayve plans to ultimately expand to five other major cities in the UK and broaden its remit to passenger services.

Alex Kendall, Co-founder and CEO, Wayve said: “We were the first team to develop the scientific breakthroughs in deep learning to build autonomous driving technology that can easily scale to new markets using a data-learned approach.

“Today, we have all of the pieces in place to take what we have pioneered and drive AV2.0 forward. We have brought together world-class strategic partners in transportation, grocery delivery and compute, along with the best capital resources to scale our core autonomy platform, trial products with our commercial fleet partners, and build the infrastructure to scale AV2.0 globally.”

Wayve will use the new capital to develop a Level 4+ AV prototype for passenger vehicles and delivery vans and scale up its deployments with its commercial partners. The firm has reportedly been poaching key staff members from Google’s driverless venture Waymo.

Last year, Waymo started offering select members of the public access to its self-driving taxi service in San Francisco, albeit still with safety drivers who are ready to take the wheel at a moment’s notice.

Seth Winterroth, from Wayve investor 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.

“Wayve is breaking new ground by building AVs that can adapt to driving in new cities, previously unseen in training. As the leaders in this field, they have assembled an exceptional team of machine learning experts and AV veterans to drive AV2.0 to reality.”

Tesla has also been equipping its vehicles with cheaper driverless systems that eschew expensive lidar hardware, in favour of cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radar to see and sense the environment around the car.

However, safety experts said last year that they believed the system “lacks safeguards” after they tested its capabilities and found it was scraping against bushes, missing turnings and even heading towards parked cars.

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