Investors are placing large bets that self-driving issues will be overcome, and that autos will eventually take over driving duties from people. Microsoft and Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group have invested $200 million in self-driving startup Wayve.
Wayve aspires to be a key participant in the Robo-delivery and logistics space. It has now raised a total of $258 million for its technology, which is based on inexpensive video cameras around the vehicle that are linked to on-board AI-driven software, allowing it to be highly responsive to its surroundings without relying on 4G or 5G networks.
Wayve CEO Alex Kendall claims that the company's test vehicles have successfully navigated not only London but also cities where the vehicles have never been before. Given the traditional mediaeval arrangement of British streets, this is no small effort.
Wayve CEO Alex Kendall
Wayve had already received $13.6 million in funding from Ocado, a British online grocery technology company, and has participated in an autonomous delivery pilot with the startup, as has British supermarket chain Asda.
Wayve claims that its AV2.0 technology is tailored to fleet operators, combining a camera-first approach with an embedded AI that learns from driving data provided by other Wayve partner fleets. According to the company, this makes it a more scalable AV platform than "AV1.0," which requires a lot of data from outside the car, such as traffic reports, street maps, and a complicated array of sensors.
The Wayve team constructed its first robotic prototype in their Cambridge garage four years ago. They now have an entire fleet of AI-powered electric self-driving cars that are expected to revolutionise the way we travel. Every layer of intelligence is data-driven, allowing for continual learning. To put it another way, technology learns in the same way that humans do. Many people are unaware of how autonomous vehicles will improve people's lives beyond the technology; it was this purpose-driven approach to the future of transportation that convinced companies like Microsoft and Virgin to invest in Wayve.
The agreement will provide Ocado with early access to Wayve's technology, which will be used in a year-long trial in which Wayve's hardware and software will be installed on Ocado vans and tested in real-world scenarios such as traffic congestion, making awkward turns on small residential streets, and navigating complicated, non-grid street layouts.
In the long run, Ocado plans to apply the technology throughout its whole worldwide footprint: the UK firm licences its grocery picking, inventory, and logistics technology, dubbed the Ocado Smart Platform (OSP), to other merchants all over the world.
In terms of data, the deal is a two-way street: Wayve will retrofit Ocado vehicles with its computers and cameras to collect more data about delivery driving in general. The company's big claim is that it doesn't rely on expensive lidar and other sensors to operate, which means it can be used in unfamiliar environments, but it still needs a lot of training data for its machine learning to operate that system.
Asda is to trial autonomous grocery delivery vans, working with self-driving vehicle firm Wayve to “help navigate complex urban delivery routes in London”.
Who is Wayve CEO Alex Kendall?
Alex is an award-winning artificial intelligence researcher and global technology leader. He raised over $258m from global financial investors and leads a global team of world-class technologists. For his achievements to technological entrepreneurship, he was included to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2020. Wayve was the first company to use end-to-end deep learning to deploy autonomous vehicles on public roads, and it intends to be the first to deploy autonomy in 100 cities.
Alex was a Woolf Fisher Scholar and Research Fellow at Trinity College, University of Cambridge, where he earned his PhD. He launched Wayve in 2017 with the notion that now is the right time to incorporate artificial intelligence in the real world to rethink autonomous mobility, based on his highly referenced and award-winning research.