Momenta, a Beijing-based developer of autonomous vehicle technology, raised a $500 million Series C round of funding. The round was led by SAIC Motor, China’s biggest automaker, Toyota, and Bosch. Momenta has now raised more than $700 million since it was founded in 2016.
Momenta is developing what it calls the “brain” of autonomous vehicles, using deep learning to create perception, HD mapping and path planning capabilities. It has said that its camera-based HD mapping uses low-cost consumer-grade sensor sets, which consist of camera, GPS, and IMU, to automatically generate HD maps with 10cm level relative accuracy. The maps include rich geometry features, such as traffic signs, poles, lane borders, traffic lights, road markings, as well ass road level and lane level topology and semantic features, according to Momenta.
Not only is Momenta developing solutions for future Level 4 SAE autonomous vehicles and up, it’s also selling semi-automated driving software for mass-production vehicles right now. In April 2021, SAIC is scheduled to start pre-sales of a new premium electric vehicle model that will be equipped with Momenta-developed intelligent driving technology.
The video below is demos Momenta’s autonomous driving capabilities.
Momenta was founded by former Microsoft employee Cao Xudong. He was a scientist at Microsoft Research Asia’s computer vision group and developed fundamental technologies applied in many well-known products such as Bing, Xbox, and How-old. Momenta is currently testing autonomous cars in Beijing and China’s eastern city of Suzhou, and has a research centre in Germany’s Stuttgart.
Toyota in 2020 partnered with Momenta to develop an HD mapping platform in China for its autonomous vehicles. Toyota has invested in several other companies working on autonomous vehicles, including Uber and Momenta’s Chinese competitor Pony.ai.
China’s autonomous vehicle industry has a ton of momentum at the moment. In late January, AutoX opened up its fully driverless robotaxi program to the public in Shenzhen. AutoX claimed this was the first time the general public in China can book a ride in a robotaxi that doesn’t have a safety driver. Beijing-based Uisee Technology raised $154 million in January for its autonomy stack that enables L4 vehicles. And Guangzhou-based WeRide completed a $310 million Series B round of funding.
China is aiming to achieve mass production of lower-level autonomous vehicles by 2025. In a 2018 report, Deloitte predicted sales of L4 autonomous vehicles in China to exceed 500,000 units by 2030.
“In China, common consensus in the industry is that autonomous driving, especially the development of L3 and L4 automation, remains a hot area of investment,” said Richard Wang, a senior analyst at the Gasgoo Auto Research Institute. “We’re expecting more new players to enter and disrupt the market in the next two to three years.”