Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Technology
Hyperdrive

Wanted in China: Detailed Maps for 30 Million Self-Driving Cars

China’s strict rules keep foreign players out of the competition to develop the next generation of digital maps.

Employees prepare a NavInfo vehicle for data collection in Beijing on June 11.

Employees prepare a NavInfo vehicle for data collection in Beijing on June 11.

Photographer: Giulia Marchi/Bloomberg
From

Chen Dan had doubts about betting millions of dollars to make high definition maps of Chinese roads. That was until she took charge of the business at NavInfo Co. and saw how they are essential to self-driving cars, with demand that could reach into the billions.

Armed with one of just 14 mapping licenses in China, a permit system restricted to locals that locks out foreign rivals, Chen has built a team that will chart every traffic lane and on-ramp for 150,000 kilometers of highways by the middle of next year. With the support of Tencent Holdings Ltd., NavInfo is preparing to battle it out with ventures backed by local web giants Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Baidu Inc.