By Nick Carey
LONDON (Reuters) - British self-driving technology startup Wayve said on Tuesday it has raised $200 million from investors to scale up its autonomous driving technology globally and launch more pilot projects with commercial fleet partners.
The Series B funding round brings the startup's total fundraising to $258 million and includes new investments from venture capital firms D1 Capital Partners, Moore Strategic Ventures and Linse Capital, plus fresh capital from investors including Microsoft.
Making taxis autonomous has proved more difficult and expensive to develop than expected, but investors have been pumping money into self-driving technology for trucks and other commercial vehicles where automation could be viable sooner.
London-based Wayve's technology relies on machine learning that uses camera sensors fitted on the outside of the vehicle, instead of the conventional method of relying on detailed digital maps and coding to tell vehicles how to operate.
"Instead of telling a car how to drive we've built a system that learns to drive and can learn to do intelligent things," Wayve CEO Alex Kendall told Reuters.
He said that, for instance, the company's test vehicles have learned how to correctly navigate "very robustly" through traffic lights in London - knowing how traffic lights function, which lane to be in and how to interact with other vehicles even if they are breaking the rules. Last year Wayve took vehicles to five other UK cities and drove through traffic lights without ever having operated in those cities before.
"Our system was able to take the concept of traffic lights from London and apply it everywhere," Kendall said. "That's why we'll be the first company to deploy in a hundred cities (worldwide)," he said, without giving a timeframe.
UK online grocery technology company Ocado has invested in Wayve and has announced an autonomous delivery trial with the startup.
Wayve is also running an autonomous delivery trial with British supermarket chain Asda in London.
(This story corrects to remove word "existing" from second paragraph to show Microsoft is a new investor)
(Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by Susan Fenton)