General Motors to invest $300m in Chinese self-driving start-up Momenta

23 Sep 2021

GM Corporate headquarters. Image: General Motors

The five-year old unicorn has also been funded by SAIC Motor, Toyota and Bosch in the past.

US car giant General Motors (GM) is to invest $300m in Chinese self-driving start-up Momenta, Reuters has reported.

Momenta has in the past seen investment from SAIC Motor Corporation, Toyota and Bosch, and closed a $500m Series C round in March of this year. The company hit unicorn status in 2018, just two years after being founded by former Microsoft employee Cao Xudong.

One of the start-up’s key assets is its licence for gathering detailed geographic data within China, which is vital for breaking into the autonomous driving market there.

Momenta focuses on partnering with existing automakers to use their vehicles as platforms for its equipment and software and to tap into their stores of data. Its strategy does not focus only on building fully automated cars. It also aims to develop Level 4 technology, a step below full automation that requires some human intervention.

GM has an ever-increasing focus on China, which is now its largest market. It has a number of joint ventures with Chinese companies, especially with the state-backed SAIC. GM is the US carmaker with the largest presence in China and it sold around 3m cars there last year.

GM is also already a player in the autonomous vehicle market, chiefly through its subsidiary Cruise.

Cruise is working on a completely driverless mini-bus called the Origin, which it said will go into production in 2023. In June, it took out a $5bn line of credit with its parent corporation to fund the purchase of Origin vehicles, which GM is to manufacture.

Car makers have rapidly intensified their interest in autonomous technology in the past few years. 2021 has seen Toyota acquire Lyft’s self-driving division, Honda announce the release of a Level 3 automated car and Volkswagen team up with Microsoft with the aim of accelerating the development of autonomous driving tech.

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Jack Kennedy is a freelance journalist based in Dublin