Waabi, founded by artificial intelligence pioneer Raquel Urtasun, Tuesday launched out of stealth to build the next generation of self-driving technology.
Waabi announced a $83.5 million (USD) Series A financing with backing from investors across the technology, logistics and the Canadian innovation ecosystem.
The round was led by Khosla Ventures with participation from Uber, Radical Ventures, 8VC, OMERS Ventures, BDC Capital’s Women in Technology Venture Fund (WIT), Aurora Innovation Inc., AI luminaries Geoffrey Hinton, Fei-Fei Li, Pieter Abbeel, Sanja Fidler and others.
“Self-driving is one of the most exciting and important technologies of our generation. Once solved at scale, it will change the world as we know it,” said founder and CEO Urtasun.
The Waabi team, based out of Toronto and California and led by Urtasun, who is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Toronto and a co-founder of the Vector Institute for AI, is considered to be at the forefront of innovation in the self-driving industry, globally.
The team will initially focus on deploying Waabi’s software in logistics, specifically long-haul trucking, an industry where self-driving technology stands to make the biggest and swiftest impact due to a chronic driver shortage and pervasive safety issues.
Building off the lessons of the last two decades, the AI company is tackling self-driving in a new way. The company’s AI-first approach leverages deep learning, probabilistic inference and complex optimization to create software that is end-to-end trainable, interpretable and capable of very complex reasoning.
This, together with a closed loop simulator, enables testing at scale of both common driving scenarios and safety-critical edge cases. This approach significantly reduces the need to drive testing miles in the real world and results in a safer, more affordable, solution.
“Waabi brings something radically new to the self-driving space,” said Sven Strohband, managing director at Khosla Ventures.
“With a dream team that has been at the forefront of innovation in the industry and a differentiated, AI-first approach, Waabi is well positioned to lead the next generation of self-driving technology and we’re thrilled to support them in that journey.”
“Raquel is truly one-of-a-kind — a tenacious and inspiring leader who empowers those around her to excel,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber. “I can’t wait to see everything she accomplishes for the self-driving industry.”
As the company grows, Toronto will remain a critical hub for developing and testing software as well as scaling its team.