Autonomous driving startup Momenta raises new round of funding at over $1 billion valuation
Momenta, an artificial intelligence and autonomous driving startup operating out of Beijing, China, has received a new round of funding putting the company at over one $1 billion valuation, making Momenta the first autonomous driving unicorn startup in China. The new funding came from industry-leading strategic investors and government funds. Existing investor NIO Capital and Pagoda Investment also increased their investments. Strategic investors, including Tencent, government funds from Shanghai and Suzhou with participation from China Merchants Group, and CCB International.
In July 2017, Momenta announced the close of a $46 million round of B-1 funding led by NIO Capital, a B-2 round led by Cathay Capital, an A round led by Shunwei Capital, as well as angel investment from Blue Lake Capital, Sinovation Ventures and Zhen Fund. Since its inception, Momenta has attracted investment totaling more than $200 million. “This round of funding has strategic importance to the company,” Momenta CEO Xudong Cao said, “Momenta will continue to work closely with its strategic partners in automotive, logistics, big data and other related areas.”
Founded two years ago by Gang Sun, Shaoqing Ren, Xudong Cao, and Yan Xia, Momenta’s team is composed of some of the world’s top experts in computer vision and deep learning, including one of the authors of Faster R-CNN and ResNet, the most popular deep learning network, as well as winners of ImageNet 2015, MS COCO Challenge 2015, and ImageNet 2017. Its deep-learning based software in perception, HD semantic mapping, and data-driven path planning enables the realization of full autonomy. The team has grown significantly within the past two years with 80% of the Momenta team being researchers and developers. Momenta offers multi-level autonomous driving solutions as well as big data products and services.
Momenta is building intelligent systems for autonomous driving, aiming to provide solutions for Tier 1 suppliers and OEMs. Cao said, “In the past two years, Momenta has undergone three phases of development: Phase 1 – Establish big data and computing platforms; Phase 2 – Develop deep-learning algorithms as foundation for Perception, HD Semantic Mapping, and Planning & Control; and Phase 3 – Develop multi-level autonomous driving solutions for mass production for highway and urban scenarios.”
This year, Momenta also formed strategic partnership with the government of Suzhou, where the company will deploy a large-scale test fleet to accelerate its Level 4 autonomous driving development and support the government in building smart transportation systems. Momenta has expanded its business to international OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers.
Momenta positions itself as a Tier 2 software provier and aims to build the brains for self-driving cars. In this setup, the vehicle is considered the “body”; the on-board vehicles sensors represent the “eyes & ears”; and software which provides path-planning and control based on information produced by perception constitutes the brain, which Momenta will provide to automotive Tier 1 suppliers for OEM customers.
“The key to achieve autonomous driving is ensuring extremely high level of safety and reliability. Momenta solves this problem by creating and utilizing a closed feedback loop of big data, AI and solutions. Momenta has independently developed a whole set of deep-learning based software in perception, HD semantic mapping, and data-driven path planning, which enables the realization of full autonomy,” the company said in a public release.
With the data collected from own crowd-sourcing channels, Momenta developed its deep-learning algorithms for perception, HD Semantic Map and planning. The startup also developed multi-level autonomous driving solutions for both aftermarket and pre-installation (OE) market based on their deep-learning algorithms.