London-based artificial intelligence (AI) start-up Wayve has secured $1.05 billion in a Series C investment round led by Japan’s Softbank, Kallanish reports.

The round was also backed by new investor NVIDIA and existing investor Microsoft. Proceeds will enable Wayve to fully develop and launch its first so-called embodied AI products for production vehicles.

The technology integrates advanced AI into vehicles and robots to transform how machines interact with, comprehend and learn from human behaviour in real-world environments. It represents the next frontier of AI innovation because it goes beyond generative AI and large language models.

“As Wayve’s core AI model advances, these products will enable OEMs to efficiently upgrade cars to higher levels of driving automation, from L2+ assisted driving to L4 automated driving,” the company explains on Tuesday. 

Additionally, it notes the new financial backing will enable it “to expand operations and partnerships in new markets, building geographically diverse data assets and attracting global talent.” Yet, further details, including when the first products would be launched, remain unclear.

The hardware-agnostic, mapless product solutions will lead to a “paradigm shift,” addressing the “long-standing challenges the industry has faced in scaling this technology to everyone, everywhere,” the company adds.

Softbank AI will contribute to a more convenient and safer society, redefining mobility and connectivity.  Kentaro Matsui, managing partner at Softbank Investment Advisers, who’s now on the Wayve board, adds: “AI is revolutionising mobility. Vehicles can now interpret their surroundings like humans, enabling enhanced decision-making that promises higher safety standards. The potential of this type of technology is transformative.”

The investment boost, described by the UK government as a “vote of confidence” in the country’s economy was celebrated by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. “We are leaving no stone unturned to create the economic conditions for start-ups to grow and thrive in the UK. We already have the third highest number of AI companies and private investment in AI in the world, and this announcement anchors the UK’s position as an AI superpower,” he says.

The British government expects the self-driving vehicle industry to be worth £42 billion ($52.7 billion) and create 38,000 more skilled jobs by 2035. Its AI sector, which already employs over 50,000 people, contributes around £3.7 billion to the UK economy annually. By 2035, the government anticipates this to grow to over $1 trillion.

Through the Automated Vehicles Bill, Britain wants to unlock a “transport revolution” with the safe and regulated deployment of self-driving vehicles. Transport secretary Mark Harper has predicted that self-driving cars could be on British roads by 2026.

Wayve did not immediately reply to Kallanish’s request for comment.