Toyota teams up with self-driving start-up Momenta to develop HD mapping tech in China

Sarah Dai

Toyota Motor has teamed up with Chinese self-driving start-up Momenta to commercialise automated high-definition mapping technologies in China.

The partnership is the Japanese car giant’s second deal in China’s autonomous driving market over the past month after it led Pony.ai’s latest funding round in February with a US$400 million investment.

The latest tie-up is expected to leverage the strengths of both partners and ultimately lead towards “mass production [of] passenger vehicles and full autonomy of mobility services,” Momenta said in a statement on Wednesday.

Founded in 2016 by Cao Xudong, former research director of AI start-up SenseTime, Momenta focuses on building the “brain” for autonomous driving based on deep-learning technologies in perception, high definition (HD) mapping and route planning.

Unlike more costly solutions relying on laser-based LIDAR technology, Momenta navigates its cars using self-generated HD maps using low cost consumer-grade sensors and cameras, according to the company. The vision-based solution is said to remain accurate to within 10cm and provides information such as traffic signs, poles, lane borders and road markings.

China’s Pony.ai is now worth US$3 billion after Toyota investment

The Suzhou-based start-up, whose valuation topped US$1 billion in 2018, counts Tencent, Daimler, GGV Capital and NIO Capital among its backers.

Momenta is among a number of autonomous driving start-ups that have taken off in China, competing not only with traditional car companies but also tech giants like Google, whose self-driving unit Waymo is an industry leader.

China has made smart vehicles one of its key development areas, attracting billions of dollars of investment over the past few years.

The Momenta partnership comes after Toyota led a US$462 million funding round in Pony.ai last month, which valued the Guangzhou-based autonomous driving start-up at just over US$3 billion.

Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker, invested US$600 million in Didi Chuxing last year, and established a new joint venture for mobility services with the Chinese ride-hailing giant.

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