This funding round will support Waabi's goal to launch fully driverless trucks in 2025. YouTube

Toronto-based autonomous trucking company Waabi announced this week that it raised $200 million in Series B funding, led by Uber, Khosla Ventures, and new investors like Nvidia, Porsche, and Volvo Group Venture Capital.

The oversubscribed round is a notable feat, given that the autonomous vehicle sector faced several setbacks in recent years as companies like Embark Trucks shut down and Waymo halted its autonomous freight segments as it navigates regulatory investigations.

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

Waabi and Nvidia announced a partnership in March to use the latter's vehicle computing platform, DRIVE Thor, for generative AI-powered self-driving purposes. The latest funding round for Waabi brings the trucking startup's total funding to $283.5 million since its inception in 2021.

"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 CEO Jensen Huang stated.

Urtasun has been developing AI systems for over a decade and has served as the chief scientist at Uber Advanced Technology Group (ATG). At Waabi, she is focused on leveraging generative AI to build an autonomous vehicle fleet that can reason like a human before making decisions.

This approach enables real-time reactions, similar to Tesla's vision-first approach to self-driving. However, Tesla collects and analyses tons of videos of real-world driving scenarios to train its AI model.

Urtasun believes most developers rely on people testing large fleets for millions of miles. However, if there are systems that can reason as humans do, "then suddenly you need much less data, you need much less computation," she told TechCrunch, adding that efficient reasoning eliminates requiring "fleets of vehicles deployed" globally.

Waabi has used generative AI to develop the Waabi Driver. The software was trained and tested using the company's closed-loop simulator, Waabi World.

Waabi World automatically creates all possible scenarios a self-driving vehicle might face in the real world. The simulator also conducts real-time sensor simulation, generates situations to stress-test the Waabi Driver, and shows it how to rectify mistakes without human intervention. This way, the company saves resources that typically go into manual road testing.

"It understands things without us telling the system about the concept of objects, how they move in the world, that different things move differently, that there is occlusion, there is uncertainty, how to behave when it's raining a lot," Urtasun said. "All these things, it learns automatically. And because it's exposed right now to driving scenarios, it learns all those capabilities."

The simulator has enabled Waabi to roll out commercial pilots (with a human driver) in Dallas and Houston in four years, and many of them are happening via a partnership with Uber Freight. The 10-year collaboration aims to streamline shipments across the US.

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

Trucking is vital to the economy, but challenges around safety, supply chains, and driver shortages still need to be addressed. The trucking sector has much to improve in optimising loads, where automation can play a significant role.

Waabi is aiming beyond fully driverless trucks and is not limited to humanoids. In a video call with TechCrunch, she said, "This technology is extremely powerful. It has this amazing ability to generalise, it's very flexible, and it's very fast to develop. And it's something that we can expand to do much more than trucking in the future. ... This could be robotaxis. This could be humanoids or warehouse robotics."

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