Volvo is investing in autonomous-truck startup Waabi.

Volvo is investing in autonomous-truck startup Waabi.

Photo: Volvo Group

Volvo Group Venture Capital announced an investment in Waabi Innovation Inc., which says it’s developing the next generation of autonomous trucking technology with its artificial-intelligence approach.

Waabi unveiled its Waabi Driver product in November. Waabi says its approach is different from other companies with its focus on artificial intelligence. The Waabi Driver uses an "AI-first autonomy stack," allowing it to learn from an advanced driving simulator the company developed.

Waabi is developing next-generation artificial intelligence technology to solve autonomy at scale. The Waabi Driver, its core autonomous trucking solution is designed for large-scale commercialization and safe deployment. This solution is complemented by Waabi World, a scalable high-quality simulator, exposing the Waabi Driver to the vast diversity of scenarios needed to hone its driving skills and paving the way to widespread adoption of autonomous trucking.

Waabi is using advanced artificial intelligence technology to test, assess skills, and ultimately teach a virtual driver to maneuver safely and efficiently in a commercial-ready autonomous trucking solution,” said Martin Witt, president of Volvo Group Venture Capital, in a news release.

That announcement also explained that the investment highlights the companies’ “shared commitment to redefine the way we move goods and to accelerate the deployment of future transport solutions.”

The amount of the investment was not disclosed.

The two companies are currently exploring ways to cooperate, but it’s not an exclusive deal.

In an interview for HDT Talks Trucking conducted before this announcement, Dustin Koehl, Waabi head of transportation, explained that Waabi intends to be OEM-agnostic.

“That’s the great thing about the Waabi Driver as we've looked at the autonomy stack, that we are very flexible in the software and the technology that's been designed. We've had that in mind since day one at the production level. And because so many fleets and our customers have their preferences of OEMs, we want to respect that and work alongside them to really meet their needs, and their customers, as well.”

“Partnerships and investments are key to commercializing autonomous transport solutions at scale,” said Nils Jaeger, president of Volvo Autonomous Solutions.

Waabi is not the only autonomous-tech startup to draw investment from truck makers. Volvo also has invested in Aurora, as has Paccar. Daimler Truck bought a majority stake in Torc Robotics in 2019.

Why Invest in an Autonomous-Truck Startup?

Volvo Group Venture Capital was founded in 1997 and invests globally in venture companies. The aim is to “drive transformation by facilitating the creation of new services and solutions and to support collaborations between start-ups and the Volvo Group.”

Volvo Group explained in its announcement that freight movement is rapidly increasing, putting tremendous pressure on every part of the supply chain. Volvo believes that fully autonomous trucking transports are key to provide additional capacity, better safety and improved efficiency but also support drivers in tiresome routes. 

“Autonomy will one day transform trucking and logistics, but the self-driving industry has not solved this challenge, yet,” said Raquel Urtasun, founder and CEO of Waabi. “Our AI-first approach is the key to unlocking this reality at scale. Volvo Group’s investment in Waabi marks the next step in our journey, particularly around our shared commitment to safety.”

In a blog post, Waabi said, “Volvo Group will add considerable value through its industry network and strategic outlook to help our business development and accelerate deployment of our autonomous technology.”

VGVC joins a list of other Waabi investors, including Khosla Ventures, Uber, Radical Ventures, 8VC, OMERS Ventures, BDC, and others.

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