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

China has made smart vehicles one of its key development areas, attracting billions of dollars of investment.

Source: Tuchong.

Toyota Motor has teamed up with Chinese self-driving startup Momenta to commercialize automated high-definition (HD) 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 USD 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 startup SenseTime, Momenta focuses on building the “brain” for autonomous driving based on deep learning technologies in perception, 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 10 cm and provides information such as traffic signs, poles, lane borders, and road markings.

The Suzhou-based startup, whose valuation topped USD 1 billion in 2018, counts Tencent, Daimler, GGV Capital, and NIO Capital among its backers.

Momenta is among a number of autonomous driving startups 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 USD 462 million funding round in Pony.ai last month, which valued the Guangzhou-based autonomous driving startup at just over USD 3 billion.

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

This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post.