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Autonomous driving start-up Wayve bags $200 million

Autonomous driving start-up Wayve bags $200 million

January 19, 2022: -U.K. autonomous driving start-up Wayve has been backed by a host of big-name investors, which include Microsoft, Virgin, and Baillie Gifford, in a $200 million funding round that brings total investment in the company up to $258 million.

Wayve did not bring out its new valuation, but it’s likely to be more than $1 billion, which would make it a so-called “unicorn” company.

Founded in London in 2017, Wayve’s team of machine-learning scientists and roboticists want to build an autonomous driving system that AI underpins.

Alex Kendall, the New Zealander and co-founded Wayve, told CNBC that his firm’s approach is “quite a contrarian” compared to what already exists.

Traditionally, technology companies have tried to tell cars how to drive with hand-coded rules, Kendall said, which added that they tend to use a “very complex hardware stack” that sometimes includes eight LiDAR (laser imaging detection and ranging) sensors, six radar and 30 cameras.

This approach can work in places such as Phoenix, Arizona, where it’s almost sunny, and there are wide open boulevards on grid-like structures. Still, it isn’t scalable in other parts of the world, according to Kendall, who is also Wayve’s CEO.

Wayve’s approach, dubbing AV 2.0, involves teaching a car to drive itself with machine-learning software and a few cameras.

“It’s able to learn to do things that are complex than humans can hand-program,” Kendall said and added that the car can “see the world for itself” with the company’s computer vision platform. “It can make its own decisions based on what it sees and drive in very complex environments as we have in central London.”

Wayve believes that deep learning has a vital role in autonomous driving. Deep learning is an area of AI that attempts to mimic the activity in layers of neurons in the brain to recognize complex patterns in data.

Rival firm FiveAI thinks autonomous vehicles need over just a few cameras to learn how to drive.

Wayve chose to license its autonomous driving technology to commercial fleets instead of manufacturing its total self-driving vehicles, which are yet to be sold to the public.

“I struggle to see a world where consumer autonomy can work,” Kendall said, adding that he thinks fully autonomous vehicles would be problematic for consumers to maintain due to their complexity.

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Autonomous driving start-up Wayve bags $200 million