Originally, the A1 passed through Gateshead and Newcastle themselves, and when the A1(M) motorway south towards Darlington opened, it came bundled up with this little spur towards South Shields, called the A194(M). But the A1 still passed through a busy urban area and still needed a bypass. It got one when the Tyne Tunnel near Jarrow opened, and the A1 was duly rerouted through the new crossing, absorbing the A194(M) into the A1(M). The spur became the main road.
When the Tyne Tunnel became overcrowded, a new Western Bypass was built, opening in the late 1980s. Now that road is the A1, and it forks off at Washington, meaning the road from Washington to South Shields was a spur once again and got its number back - A194(M) once more. It's the only motorway to have been renumbered and changed back later to its original designation.
Its northern terminus always looks a bit odd on a map. Shouldn't the motorway continue across the roundabout on a flyover instead of stopping? Most of the traffic does exactly that, but for various reasons traffic for the Tyne Tunnel is routed eastwards, to do a dog-leg onto the A19, avoiding the built-up area that the A194 passes through.