Autonomous mobility startup Wayve has raised $20M to launch a pilot fleet of autonomous vehicles in central London.

The funding round was led by Eclipse Ventures, with participation from Balderton, existing investors and several undisclosed preeminent leaders in machine learning and robotics.

The firm is attempting to create better AI-powered ‘brains’ for its self-driving vehicles, rather than by adding further physical sensors and hand-coded rules.

“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.”

In Spring 2019 the firm publicised data from a self-driving car which had navigated roads it had never previously driven. This had been accomplished by using only cameras, a 2D map, and its end-to-end, deep learning driving ‘brain’.

Wayve claims its algorithm can drive on never-seen-before urban roads just with cameras and a basic sat-nav.

It has now begun on-road public autonomous driving trials supported by insurance partner, Admiral.

“The average human learns to drive in just 50 hours with visual input primarily. Once we have learned, we are capable at driving on roads around the world despite vastly differing traffic laws and cultural context,” said Suranga Chandratillake, Partner at Balderton Capital.

“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.”