FiveAI, the UK start-up developing technology for urban driverless vehicles, has closed a £14m Series A equity financing round, thought to be the largest single venture capital funding to date for a European driverless technology start-up.
The funding round, led by Lakestar Capital, was accelerated by a £12.8m UK government grant to the FiveAI-led StreetWise consortium, conditional upon the private funding.
The financing will support the consortium as it works to deliver a trial driverless car service in London in 2019 that will target people currently driving for some or all of their daily commute.
As it develops driverless transport systems for dense European cities, StreetWise aims to compete directly with large US technology firms such as Waymo and Uber.
Through its supervised trial of a pilot fleet of autonomous vehicles in London, FiveAI plans to demonstrate that its driverless technology is sufficiently mature to operate safely in urban environments, and sufficiently intelligent to co-exist with human drivers, pedestrians and other road users. The technology will operate at Level 4 autonomy (as defined by SAE International).
The Streetwise project, which is partnering with Transport for London, will also show how its technology can be used to develop compelling service offers to recover commuting time, reduce commuting costs, cut accident rates, reduce congestion and lower emissions.
“London has one of the best public transport systems in the world,” said FiveAI co-founder and CEO, Stan Boland.
“Cycling, walking, buses and trains offer a great service for most commuters, but some journeys are still being served by personal or individual transport.
“Initially we’ll target these journeys with our shared mobility solution which will also pave the way for potential large-scale autonomous public transport in the future.
“In the short term, from day one of service launch the StreetWise project will increase public transport usage, reduce congestion and emissions, and make our urban areas more liveable for all.”
Lakestar Capital’s Dharmash Mistry, who will join the FiveAI board on completion of the funding round, said: “Dense European cities present totally different technical, behavioural, regulatory and infrastructure challenges to their US and Chinese counterparts for safe urban driverless technologies.
“By assembling its talented team in the UK and seeking to support London’s transport objectives in partnership with the city itself, FiveAI can play a vital role in reducing congestion, emissions, costs, accidents and journey times, boosting the city economy at the same time.”
In addition to Lakestar Capital, all of FiveAI’s existing investors – Amadeus Capital Partners, Notion Capital and Kindred – participated in the funding round.
“FiveAI represents the UK’s best opportunity to build a major, responsible player in autonomous vehicles,” said Dr Hermann Hauser KBE, co-founder of Amadeus Capital Partners and ARM Holdings.
“They have the team, the technology and now, with key support from the UK government, the capital to become our next industry-defining tech company.”
Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: “Low carbon and self-driving vehicles are the future and the UK has a great opportunity to lead this technology revolution.”