Mercedes-Benz to use autonomous driving technology from Chinese startup in all-electric CLA, sources say

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Mercedes-Benz is reportedly accelerating its autonomous driving solution advancements with the help of Chinese providers. According to a report by local media, the German luxury automaker’s all-electric CLA will feature a high-level intelligent driving solution from Chinese startup Momenta, which does not rely on high-definition maps. This advanced system will enable urban navigation assistance, and the electric vehicle is scheduled to enter mass production in April 2025.

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The media outlet 36Kr, China’s TechCrunch alternative, reported that including Momenta’s technology would mark the first time Mercedes-Benz has adopted an intelligent driving solution from a Chinese supplier. The new CLA would be the first Mercedes-Benz model to incorporate city pilot-assisted driving capabilities. A Nvidia Orin X chip will power the autonomous and ADAS features.

Momenta, founded in 2016 and headquartered in Suzhou, about a one-hour drive from Shanghai city center, has quickly risen to prominence in the intelligent driving industry in China. The report notes that Mercedes-Benz recognized Momenta’s potential early on, participating in its Series B funding round in early 2017, just six months after its inception. Mercedes-Benz continued its investment in 2021 by participating in Momenta’s Series C round.

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Other investors in Momenta include US GM, Chinese Shanghai Auto (SAIC Motor Corp.), and billionaire Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital.

China’s smart driving market is fiercely competitive, with companies like Huawei, Nio, Xpeng, and Xiaomi already offering advanced driver assistance features. In contrast, Mercedes-Benz’s progress in this area has lagged behind. Its latest innovation is highway pilot assistance in the 2023 E-Class long-wheelbase version.

This delay in adopting high-level smart driving features has impacted the Mercedes-Benz brand’s premium and sales growth in China. The new CLA, targeting a younger and more tech-savvy demographic, aims to address this gap. Built on the Mercedes-Benz Modular Architecture (MMA) platform, the CLA will support 800V electrical architecture and up to 250kW charging power. It will also feature the company’s proprietary MB.OS operating system, enhancing computational power and user interaction.

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The MMA platform represents a significant step in Mercedes-Benz’s electric transformation. Following the setbacks with the EQ series, the company aims to improve technology and brand image. The advancements made on the MMA platform are expected to extend to the next generation of mainstream electric models, 36kr says.

The strategic partnership with Momenta underscores Mercedes-Benz’s potential commitment to speeding up its smart driving initiatives. By leveraging local expertise, Mercedes-Benz aims to stay competitive in a market where technological innovation is rapidly advancing.

In addition to the CLA, Mercedes-Benz has outlined plans for three product lines in China that will support high-level smart driving features. The E-Class long-wheelbase version, launched at the end of 2023, includes highway pilot assistance developed by the Mercedes-Benz China R&D team. The EQS and S-Class models utilize software developed by Nvidia, with road testing already underway as of late 2023.

CLA Concept interior. Credit: MB

36kr claims Mercedes-Benz’s local R&D team is crucial to its global development network. This team has been instrumental in projects like the autonomous parking feature, which originated in China and was subsequently rolled out worldwide. Given the rapid advancements in smart driving technology by Chinese companies, Mercedes-Benz is increasingly relying on its Chinese R&D capabilities.

Insiders have indicated that due to evolving international relations, Mercedes-Benz may push for further localization of L2+ smart driving features, with future high-level intelligent driving solutions potentially being fully developed by Chinese teams or suppliers.

Globally, Mercedes-Benz has already achieved several milestones in autonomous driving. Since 2021, the company has obtained commercial licenses for L3 autonomous driving and L4 automated parking in Germany. In 2023, it secured similar L3 licenses in Nevada and California and L3 testing permits in Beijing and Shanghai.

These achievements underscore Mercedes-Benz’s robust autonomous driving credentials and global market reach. However, with China accounting for a third of Mercedes-Benz’s sales, the report concludes that succeeding in the Chinese market remains crucial for the automaker’s overall strategy.

Mercedes-Benz is 20% Chinese-owned, as Geely founder and CEO Li Shufu owns about 10% of the company, and state-owned Beijing Auto (BAIC) owns another nearly 10%, the largest shareholders. According to previous reports, Mercedes-Benz will use BYD’s Blade LFP batteries for CLA entry-level trims in China.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Interesting.

    Although Mercedes Benz is already technology leader in autonomous driving still they further increase their competency.

    So they will even become better now… Wow!

    Great move!

    1
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