Huawei obtained a permit last Friday allowing the tech giant to draw up high-definition navigation maps in China, a move that will aid the development of simulation software for autonomous vehicles.

Why it matters: The securement of mapping licenses is a key step for Chinese self-driving players who want to collect and reserve such data for training driverless vehicles.

  • China strictly prohibits companies from collecting data on mapping and surveying in the country without approvals. Only a handful of Chinese entities have received such permits to date and they are mostly state-owned enterprises.

Details: The country’s natural resources ministry granted the permit on Friday which removes barriers for Huawei, a key Tier 1 supplier for future smart connected vehicles.

  • Huawei aims to offer auto technology solutions in three areas: 4G/5G telecommunication modules for connectivity; processing chips as artificial “brains” for self-driving cars; and cloud services for AV development like simulations and real testing, said Rotating-Chairman Eric Xu at this year’s Auto Shanghai show in April.
  • A number of Chinese automakers including Geely are also planning to apply for the permit to further their push in self-driving cars, Caixin cited a person familiar with the matter as saying.
  • Other permit holders include major online navigation service providers such as Baidu, Alibaba’s Amap, and Tencent-backed Navinfo.

Context: Simulation, in which virtual road networks are built using sensor data that cars collect in the real world, has been a useful tool to help in the development and training of autonomous vehicles.

  • Self-driving companies can train their cars via simulation initially and then fine-tune them in the real world, which reduces a large amount of time, data and funds needed when development models.
  • One of the most striking examples is Alphabet’s Waymo self-driving project, which boasts a fleet of around 25,000 virtual self-driving cars that drive up to 8 million miles daily via simulations, according to the company’s latest blog post.
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Jill Shen

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: or Twitter: @yushan_shen

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