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China: IT Companies Oligopolize the HD Map Market, Pushing New Entrants Away

The high-definition (HD) mapping technology has become more crucial and emphasized as the development of autonomous driving technology progresses. Since February 2016, the Chinese government has stipulated that it is required to obtain a license for surveying and creating electronic navigation maps in order to create HD maps. As of August 2020, 25 companies have acquired this licensure. For autonomous driving, the BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent) affiliated companies oligopolize the market. In July 2020, the government announced that it intends to ease the application qualifications for licensure to promote the field of autonomous driving.

Looking at the companies with the mapping license, not only have electronic mapping and navigation service providers, such as NavInfo and AutoNavi, obtained the license but also developers of AI systems for autonomous driving, such as Kotei and Momenta, have been licensed. In addition, companies that aim to utilize autonomous driving for their own business, such as DiDi, SF Express, and JingDong 360 Du E-Commerce, hold the license.

NavInfo, funded by Tencent, signed a contract with BMW in July 2019 to provide HD maps. The BMW iNEXT with Level 3 autonomous driving capability equipped with the HD map data is scheduled to be released in China in 2021. AutoNavi, which became a subsidiary of Alibaba in 2014, announced in April 2019 that it would offer the HD map to partner companies at the cost price. The subsidiary took the initiative in making this offer to survive the growing market share competition. Baidu's subsidiary Changdi is aiming to achieve fully autonomous driving using the HD map on highways and urban roads in 2021. In September 2019, Changdi launched a free trial service of autonomous taxis in Changsha City as one step to realize the big plan.

HD Maps: A List of Companies with Mapping Licensure (as of August 2020)

No. Company Remarks
1 NavInfo Tencent funded company
2 AutoNavi Acquied by Alibaba in 2014
3 Lingtu Mainly for mobile phones
4 Changdi Acquired by Baidu's subsidiary in 2013
5 Careland Car navigations for aftermarket
6 eMapgo / EMG Acquired by Luokung in 2019
7 NGCC Agency under the Ministry of Natural Resources
8 Leador GeekGoing (subsidiary) is in charge of HD map R&D
9 Linktech Navi Acquired by Tencent in 2014
10 Jiangsu Province Surveying and Mapping Engineering Institute Agency under the Jiangsu Province
11 First Surveying and Mapping Institute of Zhejiang Agency under the Surveying and Mapping Institute of Zhejiang. Merged in December 2019.
12 Provincial Geomatics Center of Jiangsu Agency under the Surveying and Mapping Institute of Jiangsu
13 Kotei Self-driving and smart city software development company
14 Ditu (Beijing) Technology DiDi affiliated company
15 Wuhan ZhonghaiTing DataTechnology SAIC affiliated company
16 Momenta Startup founded in 2016
17 Kuandeng Startup founded in 2017. CEO is Baidu's ex-vice president
18 BrightMap Acquire funds from Dongfeng Motor, JMC, and SAIC
19 Zhitu Map Working on smart city projects, big data, etc.
20 Beijing Huawei Digital Technologies Under the umbrella of Huawei
21 Fengtu Technology (Shenzhen) SF Express affiliated company
22 Beijing JingDong 360 Du E- Commerce One of the top e-commerce companies
23 Zhongjiao Yuke (Beijing) Space Information Technology NavInfo affiliated company
24 MXNavi Car navigation for in-vehicle connected systems
25 Speed Space-time For smart city, land survey, national defense, etc.
Notes: Listed in the order of obtainment. Includes ones for non-autonomous vehicles.

Legal Obligation: The Mapping Licensure Is Required for Companies to Create HD Maps

・In February 2016, the National Bureau of Surveying and Mapping (newly re-formed as the Ministry of Natural Resources in 2018) issued a notice regarding strengthening production testing and application management of HD maps. This notice articulates that only institutions/companies that hold the licensure are allowed to create HD maps. - The usage of geographic information is restricted to entities that have obtained special authorization from the administrative department. Without approval by the authority, the mapping data shall not be provided to foreign organizations or individuals, or foreign-owned enterprises or joint ventures.

Deregulation of Application Requirements

・In July 2020, the General Office of the State Council issued “the Implementation Opinions on Further Optimization of the Business Environment for Better Serving Market Players.” - One of the proposed opinions includes lowering the qualification requirements for navigation electronic map surveying and mapping. (Created based on documents from the Chinese government and various media sources)

Other mapping companies are also expanding and strengthening business partnerships with OEMs. EMG, which seems to be funded by Geely, has been selected as Ford's HD map supplier in April 2020. Ford plans to launch a model equipped with Level 2.5 or higher autonomous driving capability in China in 2021. Momenta, an autonomous driving system developer, announced in March 2020 that it would provide Toyota with the HD map data to support the commercialization of Toyota's autonomous map generation platform APM. Due to the mapping regulations in China, foreign-affiliated OEMs are required to work with these local companies with the license. Therefore, demand for HD map is expected to further increase in the future. The moderate-priced offer by AutoNavi has put competitors in a difficult situation to make a profit by selling the map data, though; it will be necessary for them to provide comprehensive information services related to autonomous driving. Therefore, even if the government eases the requirements in order to welcome new entrants, there will still be tremendous challenges for them to penetrate the market and make a profit.

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