Chinese autonomous driving unicorn Momenta has completed its Series C round of financing, amounting to $500 million. The round was led by SAIC, Toyota, Bosch, Temasek and Yunfeng Fund. Other investors that took part in the round included Mercedes-Benz, GGV Jiyuan Capital, Shunwei Capital, Tencent
Momenta noted that after obtaining the new financing, they will continue to focus efforts on the mass production of its data-driven “flywheel” technology, in order to promote large-scale implementation of autonomous driving. In addition, Momenta plans to further expand its overseas business and set up offices in Germany and Japan.
The investment secured by Momenta represents the highest sum amassed in a single round of financing for any Chinese autonomous driving company so far in 2021. Among the startup’s backers are a range of multinational auto industry giants from China, Japan, and Germany.
This round is also the latest manifestation of the recovery of financing in the autonomous driving sector since the second half of 2020. Since June 2020, GM’s Cruise, Didi Autopilot, Pony.ai, WeRide.ai, Uisee Technology, Zhijia Technology and other autonomous driving companies have successively raked in more than $100 million in financing, according to incomplete statistics from Chinese media outlet Late Post.
SAIC Group alone, one of the leading investors in Momenta’s latest round, has invested significantly in intelligent networked vehicles over recent years. SAIC said that it invested in Momenta because it recognized that it has a strong “flywheel” core technology advantage, giving it potential to provide industry-leading autonomous driving solutions to the world.
Momenta was established in September 2016. The company’s CEO Xudong Cao graduated from Tsinghua University, and has previously worked as a researcher and executive R&D director at Microsoft Research Asia and SenseTime. He is a technical expert in the field of computer vision.
As Cao posited in a mid-2020 interview, if companies rely on self-built fleets to achieve the goal of 100 billion kilometers of road testing, one million loaded vehicles will need to run for ten hours per day without interruption for a full year. Based on the average cost of each car –about $100,000 – the entire project would require investment of over $100 billion, an amount that is simply too lofty for a single startup company or even a giant corporation to handle.
Momenta has therefore adopted two strategies. One is to open up new data sources outside its self-built fleet, cooperate with top tier car companies, and to release solutions similar to Tesla’s FSD (full self-driving), that can provide automated assistance in parking, high-speed driving, urban driving, and other functions. To this end, Momenta has introduced a Mpilot product line, which reduces the cost of self-built fleets for road testing.
The second strategy involves finding a way to solve a large number of problems automatically without relying solely on humans. Momenta has developed a tool chain that can automatically iterate and process data, as well as a “data-driven algorithm” used for forecasting and planning.
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Additionally, Late Post learned that Momenta has secured cooperation with a number of well-known top tier international and Chinese car companies, and that several models pre-equipped with its mass-produced autonomous driving solution Mpilot will be launched between 2021 and 2023.