Wayve unveils self-driving car trials in central London

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Wayve, a startup dedicated to accelerating autonomous mobility through learning-based approaches instead of hand-coded rules, has secured a US$20m Series A funding round to launch a pilot fleet of autonomous vehicles in central London.

The investment was led by Eclipse Ventures, with participation from Balderton Capital and existing investors Compound, Fly Ventures and FirstMinute Capital as well as several undisclosed, preeminent leaders in machine learning and robotics.

Wayve believes that the complexity of self-driving cars will be solved by better artificial intelligence ‘brains,’ not by more physical sensors and hand-coded rules. Launched in Cambridge, UK – arguably the birthplace of modern computing and artificial intelligence – and recently relocated to London, Wayve is the first European self-driving car company to attract premier Silicon Valley venture capital funding to lead a Series A investment.

“Wayve’s differentiated approach to autonomy builds on timely advances in the fields of reinforcement learning, simulation and computer vision,” said Seth Winterroth, partner at Eclipse Ventures. “Furthermore, by locating the company in the UK, the team has access to an extraordinary talent pool and numerous complex testing environments.”

“The average human learns to drive in just 50 hours with primarily visual input,” added Suranga Chandratillake, partner at Balderton Capital. “Once we have learned, we are capable of driving on roads around the world despite vastly differing traffic laws and cultural context. Wayve’s self-driving technology is the closest to this human approach to learning. The great advantage of solving the problem this way is that it is robust in the face of a global opportunity.”

To date, self-driving vehicle testing has been carried out on highly structured and modern roads in the USA and China. While these are live driving environments, Wayve argues that such geographies lack the irregular, diverse and complex streets of most other global cities. The company has successfully begun on-road public autonomous driving trials supported by insurance partner Admiral.

End-to-end machine learning based systems have dominated traditional rule-based approaches in natural language processing, image recognition, speech synthesis and more.

“As computational power and data continue to grow, learning-based approaches will become more inevitable, especially for mobile robotics,” said Amar Shah, Wayve co-founder and CEO. “The human brain has evolved over millions of years. Computers have only had a few decades, but are catching up quickly.”

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