By Nick Carey
LONDON (Reuters) – Self-driving software startup Oxbotica said on Wednesday it has raised $47 million in its latest funding round led by the venture arm of oil giant BP and including health and safety device maker Halma Plc and Tencent.
The startup, an Oxford University spin-out which develops autonomous systems that could be used in vehicles from taxis to freight trucks, said the funding will speed up commercial deployment of its software platform “across multiple industries and key markets“.
“We have a vision, we have the technology, we have the team, we see the markets and we have the customers,” Oxbotica founder Paul Newman said in a statement.
The Oxford-based company said that its software works “with any vehicle, any time, and in any place”.
Developing the technology for fully self-driving cars and robotaxis has proven more difficult than originally anticipated, as it requires developing sensors capable of operating on urban streets with pedestrians. But industry experts say autonomous driving on motorways could be possible by the middle of this decade.
Autonomous technology for freight trucks on highways has attracted investor attention as it should be easier and cheaper to roll out, experts say, while providing a clearer path to profitability.
There was a flurry of deals last year involving makers of lidar sensors – seen as essential by many automakers to make cars capable of driving themselves – including Velodyne Lidar Inc, Luminar, Innoviz and Aeva.
In December, San Francisco-based lidar sensor maker Ouster said it had agreed to go public through a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Colonnade Acquisition Corp in a deal that valued the startup around $1.9 billion.
SPACs have emerged as a quick route to the stock market for companies, particularly auto technology firms, and have proven popular with investors seeking to echo Tesla Inc’s high stock valuation.
(Reporting By Nick Carey; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)