United Kingdom

Driverless car start-up Wejo zooms to £10m funding from Government and GM

A British start-up behind technology used in driverless cars has secured £10million in funding from the Government's coronavirus fund and other investors.

The amount raised by Chester-based Wejo, which hopes to play a major role in autonomous cars, is among the largest secured by a British start-up through the Government's Future Fund.

The fund was established at the height of the pandemic to support often ambitious but still loss-making fledgling technology firms, and prevent them running out of cash.

Chester-based Wejo hopes to play a major role in autonomous cars

The £10million came from new and existing investors, including US giant General Motors, which took a 35 per cent stake last year that valued Wejo at more than £200million.

The Government's input is a convertible loan that turns into shares over time. The sum must be matched by other investors. It is not known how much the Government gave Wejo, but firms can apply for up to £5million.

Chief executive Richard Barlow, who founded the firm in 2014, said: 'It gives us clear water and supports some contracts we have won during the Covid-19 outbreak.'

News of the funding comes a week after Wejo unveiled a tie-up with Hyundai – its latest deal with a car maker – following agreements with General Motors and Mercedes owner Daimler. 

Start-ups that rely on external funding from investors including venture capital firms have struggled during the outbreak as investors hold back on ploughing large sums into their investments.

Car makers were also cutting their spending, hurting firms such as Wejo as people started driving less and Barlow had to cut some jobs. 

He said: 'I don't think any of us knew where the world was going in March and I had to be a good custodian of capital. I'm sorry for some of the decisions I had to make.'

Wejo's technology allows the sharing of huge amounts of data from cars, which is expected to be key when autonomous vehicles are launched. Wejo has been working with authorities in the US to track car movements during lockdown, providing data to eight US states.

Connected cars will be key when traffic can be managed by monitoring real-time data from vehicles. Wejo's technology will also alert drivers to when parking spaces become available.

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