Volvo backs Waabi to accelerate driverless trucks commercialization

Waabi unveiled its self-driving product in November to gear up for road tests.

Toronto-based artificial intelligence (AI) startup Waabi, which develops solutions for autonomous vehicles (AV), has secured an undisclosed amount of capital from the corporate investment arm of automaker Volvo.

As part of its investment, Volvo announced this week that it is “currently exploring ways to cooperate” with Waabi in order for both organizations’ shared plans to accelerate the commercialization of driverless trucks.

Volvo’s investment in Waabi marks the next step in Waabi’s journey, particularly around their “shared commitment to safety,” said Urtasun.

Volvo Group Venture Capital president Martin Witt said Volvo Group sees “considerable strategic value” in the development of Waabi’s business.

Launched in 2021 by Canadian AI luminary Raquel Urtasun, Waabi is building self-driving technology with its initial sights on autonomous long-haul trucking. The startup unveiled its self-driving product, called Waabi Driver, in November. Waabi said it aims to expand into other use cases after proving its solution in long-haul trucking,

When Waabi exited stealth mode almost two years ago, it announced over $100 million CAD in Series A funding from the likes of Uber, Radical Ventures, and OMERS Ventures. Urtasun told BetaKit in November that Waabi remains “super well-capitalized,” with multiple years of runway left in the bank.

RELATED: Raquel Urtasun’s Waabi gearing up to hit the road

Volvo’s investment in Waabi marks the next step in Waabi’s journey, according to Urtasun, particularly around the organizations’ “shared commitment to safety.”

The Globe and Mail reported that Volvo’s contribution is “believed to be in the single-digit millions of dollars.” Urtasun told The Globe that “this announcement is an investment, but the intention is to really work together and explore ways to go to that scale of commercialization.”

Volvo launched its corporate investment arm in 1997, and has been actively investing in AV technologies through an AV company under the Volvo Group portfolio: Volvo Autonomous Solutions (VAS).

VAS has entered partnerships with several other AV startups to deploy driverless Volvo vehicles in recent years.

In 2021, Aurora Innovation reached an agreement with VAS to jointly develop autonomous semi trucks for North America. Aurora bought Uber’s self-driving division, which Urtasun led, in 2020.

Last year, VAS entered a long-term partnership with Uber Freight to deploy Volvo’s autonomous transport solution on Uber Freight’s marketplace.

Feature image courtesy Waabi.

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz is a staff writer for BetaKit.

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