An early backer of Facebook and Spotify just invested millions in this UK AI startup

Lynsey Barber
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FiveAI's technology must learn London's roads (Source: Getty)

The venture fund set up by an early backer of Facebook, Spotify and Skype has invested millions in a UK artificial intelligence startup that is planning on getting driverless cars on the road.

Lakestar Capital has led the £14m series B round into FiveAI, the company working with Mclaren technologies and Transport for London on self-driving technology.

Previous investors Amadeus Capital Partners - the VC firm set up by ARM founder Herman Hauser - Notion Capital and Kindred are also investing in the round.

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“FiveAI is a fantastic example where the UK has the talent, ambition and market to build a truly successful technology-led company," said Lakestar Capital's Dharmash Mistry

"Dense European cities present totally different technical, behavioural, regulatory and infrastructure challenges to their US and Chinese counterparts for safe urban driverless technologies."

Its driverless car test, which also include Direct Line, Oxford University and the Transport Resarch Lab under the group name Streetwise, landed millions in government funding as part of its stratgy to back cutting edge technologies with £2bn.

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“FiveAI represents the UK’s best opportunity to build a major, responsible player in autonomous vehicles," said Hauser. "They have the team, the technology and now, with key support from the UK government, the capital to become our next industry-defining tech company.”

The fresh cash for the two-year-old startup will go toward getting vehicles of level o4 autonomy - the second highest and without any human input - on to London's roads by 2019. Advisers to the startup include experts from Oxford university, the Alan Turing Institute, Edinburgh University's robotics institute.

It is taking on tech giants such as Uber and Google, both of which are testing self-driving cars on the roads in US cities, and also homegrown talent such as Oxford spin out startup Oxbotica, which yesterday unveiled three prototype models of driverless cars: a Range Rover Evoque and Ford Fusion and Mondeo.

“Cycling, walking, buses and trains offer a great service for most commuters, but some journeys are still being served by personal or individual transport," said FiveAI co-founder and chief executive Stan Boland, who previously sold startups to Broadcom and Nvidia.

"Initially we’ll target these journeys with our shared mobility solution which will also pave the way for potential large-scale autonomous public transport in the future. In the short term, from day one of service launch the StreetWise project will increase public transport usage, reduce congestion and emissions, and make our urban areas more liveable for all.”

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