FiveAI, a start-up leading the UK’s charge to build technology for urban driverless vehicles, has closed a £14 million Series A equity financing round.

It adds to £12.8m in government funding for FiveAI’s consortium-led StreetWise project.

The latest investment is thought to be the largest single venture funding for any European driverless technology start-up to date.

Lakestar Capital led the round, with all of FiveAI’s existing investors – Amadeus Capital Partners, Notion Capital and Kindred – also participating.

Lakestar Capital’s Dharmash Mistry, who will join the FiveAI board on completion of the funding round, said: “FiveAI is a fantastic example where the UK has the talent, ambition and market to build a truly successful technology-led company.

“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.”

FiveAI

StreetWise brings several major parties alongside Cambridge-based FiveAI to deliver a safe trial driverless car service in London towards the end of 2019.

Those parties include the UK’s largest private motor insurer Direct Line Group and McLaren Applied Technologies, McLaren Group’s advanced technology, innovation and design company.

With the University of Oxford and TRL contributing cutting-edge research in the fields of computer vision and safety respectively, StreetWise is a de facto national competitor to several large US technology companies like Google’s Waymo and Uber, who might otherwise seek to lock-up major European cities’ future transport systems.

The opportunity to build a true competitor caught the eye of the UK government’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and through Innovate UK, it provided financial support, conditional upon private funding now met by FiveAI’s Series A.

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. The Government is determined to ensure the UK becomes the go-to place for the development of the next generation of vehicles as part of our Industrial Strategy.

“Government investment, through our Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, in the StreetWise Consortium has helped FiveAI to attract significant inward investment for a project that will help build on our expertise and reputation in self-driving technology and support our clean growth, low-carbon agenda.”

The funding will enable FiveAI to develop and demonstrate autonomous SAE level 4 urban technology and a model for its use in a novel form of personal mobility service aimed at individuals currently driving some or all of their daily commute. FiveAI is targeting 2019 to launch a supervised trial of a pilot fleet of autonomous vehicles on London roads.

The trial will show that the technology is now sufficiently mature to be safe in urban environments and sufficiently intelligent to co-exist with human drivers, road users and pedestrians.

The StreetWise project will also demonstrate how this technology can be used to build compelling service offers to recover commuting time, reduce commuting costs, cut accident rates, reduce congestion and lower emissions.

Streetwise is partnering with Transport for London (TfL) to ensure its service offering is always aligned to public transportation needs.

“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.”

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