September 25, 2023

Autonomous trucking startup Waabi has bagged Volvo Group Enterprise Capital AB, the automaker’s VC arm, as a strategic investor. The businesses aren’t disclosing the quantity invested, nor many different particulars in regards to the deal, however having Volvo on board will each present Waabi entry to Volvo’s intensive trade community and assist the startup discover alternatives for large-scale commercialization.

“We’ve been extraordinarily selective by way of who we convey on board as an investor, and that is the precise time for Waabi to convey on a strategic OEM,” Waabi’s CEO and founder, Raquel Urtasun, advised TechCrunch.

The partnership additionally symbolizes Volvo’s personal dedication to self-driving trucking. Volvo Group has been exploring autonomous mobility options for years. As early as 2017, Volvo had developed an autonomous concept truck that may be used for hub-to-hub transportation of products — a mannequin that Waabi can also be pursuing. In 2019, the automaker unveiled Vera, its autonomous, electrical “truck” that appears extra like a sports activities automobile with a trailer positioned on prime. Final we heard, the Vera was being utilized in Sweden to maneuver items packed in cargo trailers from a logistics middle to a port terminal, in partnership with logistics firm DFDS. Volvo didn’t reply in time to supply an replace.

Extra not too long ago, Volvo teamed up with autonomous car know-how startup Aurora Innovation to collectively develop autonomous semi-trucks, with the Aurora Driver know-how stack built-in into the vehicles, for the North American market.

“We characterize for Volvo a strengthening dedication to self-driving trucking, in addition to their understanding that there’s next-generation know-how, they usually need to be the chief of subsequent technology know-how,” mentioned Urtasun, nodding to Waabi’s AI-first and simulation-heavy strategy to autonomy. “They need to be a part of that story.”

The funding, which is an extension to Waabi’s $83.5 million Sequence A that was led by Khosla Ventures, comes just a few months after the startup unveiled its first technology of vehicles which might be purpose-built for OEM integration. That implies that fairly than including on cameras, lidar and different sensors to an already constructed truck, Waabi’s Driver — which incorporates software program, sensors and compute energy — is manufactured instantly into the car from the meeting line. The consequence to an onlooker is a smoother car exterior — no chunky after-market sensor ornamentation — that’s simpler to scrub and keep.

“We construct deep partnerships with OEMs as a result of we don’t imagine in after market installations,” mentioned Urtasun. “So for us, OEM partnerships are crucial partnerships.”

Urtasun was mum about whether or not Volvo will certainly be a future manufacturing accomplice — though we’d guess that Volvo is — however she did say to remain tuned for information to come back within the subsequent few months on that entrance.

Waabi has advised TechCrunch that its simulator, along with testing, coaching and educating Waabi’s self-driving software program, has additionally helped the corporate design its next-gen truck by testing completely different sensor placement on a digital twin of the car. By constructing out and testing the truck in simulation, Waabi prevented doubtlessly years of constructing and testing actual world automobiles, mentioned Urtasun.

Except for the flexibility to hurry up design and manufacturing at a fraction of the associated fee, Waabi’s simulator grew to become a promoting level for Volvo due to its security functions, mentioned Urtasun.

“While you say Volvo, what involves thoughts for everyone is an emblem of security, and that’s the place we’re tremendous aligned by way of our very differentiated strategy to security that Waabi is offering,” mentioned Urtasun. “Waabi is simulation-centric, as an alternative of deploying massive take a look at fleets, and that’s one of many issues that Volvo actually highlights by way of their funding.”

Urtasun mentioned that OEM companions have additionally been excited by Waabi’s capacity to “scale from day one” as a consequence of its simulator.

“This is a vital stepping stone on our path,” mentioned Urtasun. “We’re in a really distinctive place by way of the aggressive panorama as a result of we have now a multi-year runway and we have now a really lean strategy, which implies we will go tremendous quick with a fraction of the associated fee and other people.”

Waabi was based in 2021 and already the corporate claims to have probably the most superior simulator within the trade and a truck that appears like a next-generation truck for many different corporations working at present.

“What actually defines Waabi is that we noticed the tremendous capital intensive strategy that could be very gradual, and as an alternative we mentioned we have to construct completely different know-how so we will get there sooner and in a way more scalable trend,” mentioned Urtasun.

In fact, it stays to be seen whether or not Waabi’s guarantees of quick, low-cost scaling will really pan out. The corporate has take a look at automobiles on the bottom, however has but to announce any business pilots with OEM or transport companions.