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Oxbotica raises $140 million to deploy self-driving commercial vehicles

A passenger vehicle is seen traveling autonomously using Oxbotica software during a trial on public roads in Oxford

By Nick Carey

LONDON (Reuters) - Self-driving software startup Oxbotica has raised $140 million from investors to speed deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in areas including heavy industry, ports and airports.

The Series C round includes funding from new investors including Japanese insurer Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance and the venture capital arm of Japanese oil refiner Eneos.

It also includes fresh funding from existing investors including Tencent and the venture capital arm of BP, as well as Kiko Ventures, the clean tech investment platform of IP Group and Oxbotica's first institutional investor.

Oxbotica has now raised about $225 million in total and the company said that additional investors are expected to sign up before the funding round closes in a few months.

The startup is working on specific applications for strategic investors. These include AVs for remote BP locations, a people mover for German auto parts supplier ZF Friedrichshafen and for last-mile delivery by British online supermarket and technology group Ocado.

The clamour for robotaxi applications, however, appears to have subsided.

Ford Motor Co said in October that it was winding down its Argo AI self-driving business, saying robotaxis were still too far off to continue investing.

Oxbotica Chief Executive Gavin Jackson told Reuters that AVs using the startup's software will enter service in 2023 in the energy and agriculture sectors, plus private truck yards, followed by fixed-route passenger shuttles in 2024.

Once regulations catch up with the industry, the company will start running tests on limited routes for Ocado in 2025, Jackson said.

He said the company has customers in mining, construction, agriculture, airports, ports and the logistics sector, all of which want safe and reliable AVs.

"These are the applications that matter," Jackson said. "The proceeds (of this funding round) will really accelerate deployment for our commercial customers." (This story has been corrected to remove reference to Trimble in the second paragraph as it has not invested in Oxbotica)

(Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by David Goodman)