Last week, UK-based self-driving vehicle startup Five announced it secured $41 million in Series B funding. The firm secured investments from Trustbridge Partners, Direct Line Group, and Sistema VC in its latest round. Moreover, the company revealed it had initiated a significant change in focus.
Previously, Five sought to build a fleet of its own driverless cars. However, the startup is now pursuing the development of an autonomous automobile operation system to license to other companies.
Founded in Cambridge, England in 2015, Five came into the self-driving car field with an impressive pedigree. Before launching their own enterprise, the startup’s founders designed and sold chips for Broadcom, Huawei, and Nvidia. And despite its short life, the firm has made significant inroads within its industry.
The company has been testing its driverless cars as part of an initiative called Streetwise in the United Kingdom. As part of the program, Five’s autonomous cars have been transporting passengers across an 11-mile route in London (with a safety operator). Since October, the project has given the firm a wealth of data on the effectiveness of its technology stack. Streetwise has also provided the U.K. government with crucial insights on the logistics of deploying self-driven vehicles in-country.
At launch, Five had an interest in developing a fleet of robotaxis that would service the European market. Because of its impressive autonomous automobile operation technology, the firm raised $37.7 million in outside funding within two years. However, since then, the startup’s leadership has changed its goals for a very understandable reason; economic viability.
Five’s New Roadmap
CEO Stan Bolland told TechCrunch his firm would use its latest cash injection to turn its research and development projects into commercial products. The executive explained his team realized the overly ambitious nature of its initial roadmap in 2019. Indeed, he said it would take “hundreds of billions” to design a fully autonomous vehicle stack.
As such, Five has scaled back on its plans and will focus on addressing specific aspects of the driverless vehicle conundrum. By doing so, the startup will significantly reduce its materials costs. Moreover, the firm’s new roadmap will give it the ability to bring commercial products to the market sooner.
For instance, Direct Line Group has an interest in selling the company’s driverless platform testing to car insurance providers. The organization notes supplying insurers with risk analysis tools for autonomous vehicles will play a key role in mainstreaming the technology. Bolland also stated his company had developed applications capable of improving the object recognition training of existing self-driving programs.
Although no private company has yet developed a Level V autonomous vehicle solution, the innovation is seemingly nearing maturity. In addition to Five’s fundraising success, Alphabet’s Waymo just secured a $2.25 billion cash infusion to further its self-driving project. Moreover, Qualcomm debuted an impressive driverless vehicle system at CES 2020, and Hyundai poured an estimated $30 million in driverless car startup called Aurora.