Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG is investing in a Chinese self-driving startup, in another instance of a Western auto maker seeking out a Chinese partner to get a foothold in a challenging market.
The Stuttgart, Germany-based automotive giant made its first ever investment in a Chinese startup this week, taking part in a $46 million funding round for Momenta, a Beijing-based firm providing road sensors and high definition mapping software.
Other investors in Momenta include NIO, an electric-vehicle maker backed by Tencent Holdings that has pledged to sell fully autonomous cars in the U.S. in 2020.
Daimler declined to comment.
It joins peers such as Hyundai Motors Co. in aligning with Chinese firms as the race to develop an autonomous vehicle revs up.
Western auto makers face high hurdles entering China because the country considers the kind of mapping needed to make self-driving cars work a national security issue and limits it to domestic companies. Foreign software and car companies also could face difficulty gaining approval to conduct test drives in the country, The Wall Street Journal recently reported.
China has made self driving cars part of its national agenda, setting autonomous vehicle targets and creating sandboxes to test such technology, as Beijing makes a big push to dominate the world's artificial intelligence industry by 2030.
In a plan unveiled by the State Council on July 20, China pledged to invest and groom technologies from autonomous driving to computer vision for use in sectors such as national security and manufacturing. By 2030, China forecasts its core AI industries to be worth 1 trillion yuan ($148 billion).
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