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Government jumps on Wayve self-drive funding boost

DSIT says the $1bn of funding announced by UK startup Wayve shows that a pro-innovation approach to regulation works

Wayve, a UK company specialising in artificial intelligence (AI) for self-driving vehicles, has secured more than $1bn of investment from Softbank, Nvidia and Microsoft. The UK government said the investment cements the country’s position as a world leader in AI and self-driving vehicle technology.

The funding announcement comes just weeks before the industry-backed Automated Vehicles Bill is set to become law. Under the bill’s provisions, all self-driving vehicles will be required to undergo robust safety testing before they are permitted to drive on UK roads. The bill will also ensure clear legal liability when a vehicle is driving itself by creating new legal entities responsible for self-driving vehicles.

Transport secretary Mark Harper said: “Self-driving cars will revolutionise road travel, making it safer and more convenient for everyone. Our Automated Vehicles Bill paves the way for their safe use in the UK, and opens the door for investment into innovative British companies like Wayve – putting the UK at the forefront of a growing global industry. This is an important part of our plan to grow the economy and create high-quality jobs into the future.”

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) said the self-driving vehicle industry in the UK is expected to grow to become a £42bn market and create 38,000 more skilled jobs by 2035.

Wayve said its advancements in self-driving vehicle technology have been supported by the UK’s Code of Practice: automated vehicle trialling, which sets out a framework to support and promote self-driving vehicle technology pilots.

Wayve co-founder and CEO Alex Kendall said the UK’s approach has been integral to its ability to build AI for assisted and automated driving quickly. “The UK’s progressive testing framework has supported our rapid development of cutting-edge AI, and we’ve been pleased to work with the government on the Automated Vehicles Bill, which gives investors confidence that the UK is truly a leader in AI and AVs [autonomous vehicles],” he said.

This 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
Alex Kendall, Wayve

“This investment will help us launch our Embodied AI products and expand our operations globally. It 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.”

Embodied AI is Wayve’s machine learning technology that enables vehicles to learn from and interact with a real-world environment, including the ability to navigate and learn from situations that do not follow strict patterns or rules.

DSIT said the Code of Practice: automated vehicle trialling is world-leading in its pro-innovation and flexible approach towards the development and testing of self-driving vehicles in the UK as it relies on the company taking accountability for safety without the requirement for “onerous regulatory processes and red tape”.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak said: “The fact that a home-grown, British business has secured the biggest investment yet in a UK AI company is a testament to our leadership in this industry, and that our plan for the economy is working. We are leaving no stone unturned to create the economic conditions for businesses to grow and thrive in the UK.”

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