Google’s self-driving car project Waymo has acquired Oxford University spin-out Latent Logic for an undisclosed amount.

It gives Waymo its first presence in the UK but does not intend to introduce its self-driving vehicles into the country yet.

Latent Logic’s ‘imitation learning’ technology teaches machines how to act using human reactions to unusual circumstances.

It could help Waymo’s vehicles learn the best response to situations where human drivers drive in an aggressive or unexpected manner.

“The team’s expertise in reinforcement learning and imitation learning can help further accelerate Waymo’s progress in areas from simulation to behaviour prediction and planning,” said Waymo.

Drago Anguelov, Waymo’s principal scientist and head of research, said: “We see an exciting opportunity in Europe, not only in continuing to build our partnerships with major automakers but also in benefiting from the world-class technology and engineering capabilities in Oxford and beyond.”

Latent Logic was founded in 2017 by academics Shimon Whiteson and João Messias.

“By joining Waymo, we are taking a big leap towards realising our ambition of safe, self-driving vehicles,” said Whiteson.

“In just two years, we have made significant progress in using imitation learning to simulate real human behaviours on the road.

“I’m excited by what we can now achieve in combining this expertise with the talent, resources and progress Waymo have already made in self-driving technology.”

Waymo’s self-driving vehicles are currently limited to operation in Phoenix, Arizona but there are plans to launch operations in Europe in the near future. The firm is working with Renault to develop a self-driving taxi service for the 2024 Paris Olympics.