Why are Uber and Nvidia investing in autonomous trucking startup Waabi?

By:
on Jun 18, 2024
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  • Waabi raises $200 M in Series B funding led by Uber and Khosla Ventures, with new investor Nvidia joining.
  • Waabi’s AI system, Waabi World, simulates real-world driving scenarios.
  • Partnerships with Uber Freight and Nvidia aim to deploy fully driverless trucks by 2025.

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Autonomous trucking startup Waabi announced on Tuesday it has raised $200 million in an oversubscribed Series B funding round.

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This round was led by existing investors Uber and Khosla Ventures, and included new investor Nvidia, along with Porsche and the venture capital arm of Volvo.

Waabi’s approach to autonomous trucking

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Many companies are developing self-driving vehicles, but Toronto-based Waabi believes too many developers rely on human-driven scenarios.

Waabi takes a different approach by using generative AI to build a single AI system capable of reasoning like humans and coming up with problems that human minds might not conceive.

Its closed-loop simulator, Waabi World, automatically generates all the situations a self-driving vehicle might encounter in the real world, testing these scenarios without wasting resources and money on physical models that need to be driven for millions of miles on roads.

Waabi founder and CEO Raquel Urtasun, said:

A system like this has astounding abilities to generalize and handle the unknown, is more efficient to train, and its safety can be mathematically validated and verified.

Strategic partnerships and market potential

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In September, Waabi’s AI-powered software and sensors, Waabi Driver, began working with the Uber Freight logistics system to move shipments throughout the U.S.

This 10-year partnership started in Dallas and Houston but is set to expand to other locations in Texas and beyond.

Trucking is an integral part of the economy, representing over 70% of freight moved in the U.S. Despite its importance, the industry is plagued by driver shortages, safety issues, and supply chain challenges.

Even as pandemic-related problems have subsided, the supply chain remains far from optimal. Trucking, in particular, continues to offer significant room for optimization through automation and tech-driven solutions.

Announcing the round, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said:

Waabi is developing autonomous trucking by applying cutting-edge generative AI to the physical world. I’m excited to support Raquel’s vision through our investment in Waabi, which is powered by Nvidia technology.

Nvidia’s role and the future of AI in transportation

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In March, Waabi and Nvidia announced a partnership to use the chipmaker’s vehicle computing platform DRIVE Thor for generative AI-powered self-driving applications.

Nvidia’s prominence as a venture investor has grown as more startups rely on AI chips, and it has made other recent investments in self-driving companies.

Huang added:

Waabi’s AI technology, paired with Nvidia’s DRIVE Thor, aims to revolutionize autonomous trucking by creating a more efficient and safer logistics system.

The new investor round brings Waabi’s total funding to $280 million since its founding in 2021.

“This funding round gives us everything we need, both financially and strategically, to launch fully driverless trucks and accelerate our growth in 2025,” Urtasun said.

Future applications of Waabi

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Waabi’s expects its AI technology to have applications in other areas, such as humanoid and warehouse robots.

The involvement of significant industry players like Uber and Nvidia underscores the potential they see in Waabi’s technology.

Uber’s investment aligns with its strategy to integrate more advanced logistics solutions into its freight business, while Nvidia’s involvement highlights the growing importance of AI hardware in enabling sophisticated autonomous systems.

Waabi is set to face challenges

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While Waabi’s technology holds promise, the company must navigate several challenges. Regulatory hurdles, safety concerns, and the need for extensive testing and validation are some of the obstacles that Waabi will need to address as it moves toward the deployment of its autonomous trucks.

However, the strategic investments from Uber, Nvidia, and other partners provide Waabi with the resources and support needed to tackle these challenges.

The company’s innovative use of generative AI sets it apart in the competitive field of autonomous vehicle development, and its success could pave the way for broader acceptance and integration of autonomous technologies in various industries.

As the race to develop fully autonomous vehicles continues, Waabi’s approach and partnerships position it as a significant player to watch.

The company’s progress over the next few years will be crucial in determining its impact on the future of transportation and automation.

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