UK driverless car start-up FiveAI raises £26.8m and wins government contract

Building its own autonomous driving system, the start-up will use its AI-based platform to take on the likes of Uber with a fleet of self-driving taxis

FiveAI, a UK start-up thats developing an autonomous driving system, has raised £26.8m to help deliver driverless cars to the UK.

Backed by a whole host of VCs in a £14m Series A funding round, the start-up also bagged a two-year government grant worth £12.8m which will go towards the StreetWise consortium – which aims to launch a driverless car service in London before 2020.

FiveAI hopes its tech will eventually reduce the amount of individual road users, by building a fleet of self-driving taxis to rival the likes of Uber.

Co-founded by Stan Boland, the serial entrepreneur previously co-founded two communications silicon and software companies Element 14 Inc. and Icera Inc – which he sold for an aggregate value of £1bn.

Based in London, Cambridge, Bristol, Edinburgh and Oxford, the start-up has previously been backed by Kindred, Notion Capital and Amadeus Capital.

As part of this current deal, Dharmash Mistry, general partner of Lakestar Capital and co-founder of blow LTD, will join the FiveAI board.

Earlier this year, London-based start-up Vivacity Labs raised over £3m in funding with £1.7m coming via a project grant from Innovate UK, with Tracsis, Downing Ventures and the London Co-Investment Fund backing £1.6m between them.

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Aiming to ease traffic jams and ensure safer driving conditions, Vivacity creates sensors with built-in machine learning – which help identify individual road users and manage traffic accordingly.

By use of a camera, the sensors will be able to give green-light priority to cyclists, buses or ambulances, help make lorry drivers aware of other road-users, and alert driverless cars of crossing pedestrians.

Mistry 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.”

Greg Clark, business and energy secretary, 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.”