Alibaba and SAIC part­ner on in­ter­net car

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By MENGJING in Hangzhou mengjing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

It seems a long shot to re­place smart­phones with cars. But Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd is head­ing in that di­rec­tion. It un­veiled on Wed­nes­day a newin­ter­net-en­abled ve­hi­cle equipped with the e-com­merce gi­ant’s YunOS op­er­at­ing sys­tem.

The car, which is dubbed the first in­ter­net car to go into mass pro­duc­tion, is part of a part­ner­ship that Alibaba and SAIC Mo­tor Corp, one of China’s ma­jor car man­u­fac­tur­ers, inked about two years ago.

JackMa, ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Alibaba, de­scribed the ve­hi­cle as a mile­stone prod­uct that marks the be­gin­ning of the so-called in­ter­net of ev­ery­thing — an era in which ev­ery­thing is con­nected to ev­ery­thing else via the in­ter­net.

“Just like what the smart­phone does to our life — about 80 per­cent of the fea­tures of a smart­phone are not re­lated to mak­ing phone calls any­more. In the fu­ture, about 80 per­cent of the func­tions of a car will not be re­lated to trans­porta­tion,” saidMa.

The car, which will be put on to the mar­ket soon at a re­tail price from 148,800 yuan ($22,250), en­joys some tech­savvy fea­tures such as voice con­trol to change the in-car tem­per­a­ture and a real-time nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem that can re­lieve the driver from the pres­sure of star­ing at smart­phone-based nav­i­ga­tion tools.

Some of the fea­tures­may not seem ma­jor break­throughs. But James Yan, re­search direc­tor at Coun­ter­point Tech­nol­ogy Mar­ket Re­search, said that it is ac­tu­ally much more com­pli­cat­edthan it looks to con­nect a tra­di­tional car to the in­ter­net.

“With the in­stalled op­er­at­ing sys­tem, Alibaba is likely to in­tro­duce more fea­tures, such as stream­ing videos and on­line shop­ping, in the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of its smart ve­hi­cles,” said Yan.

How­ever, he doubts that cars can re­place smart­phones as a key in­ter­net de­vice. “Af­ter all, peo­ple don’t spend that much time in cars, only when they need to com­mute.”

Among China’s ma­jor tech com­pa­nies, Alibaba is con­sid­ered to be an early bird in terms of launch­ing an in­ter­net car that is ready for sale. But its ri­vals, such as Baidu Inc and Le Hold­ings Co are fo­cus­ing on self-driv­ing tech­nol­ogy.

Baidu plans for its cars go into mass pro­duc­tion in five years, Le Hold­ings, known for its smart TV and smart­phone prod­ucts, in April re­leased its first con­cept self-driv­ing elec­tronic car — 28 months af­ter the com­pany de­cided to en­ter the in­dus­try.

XU KANGPING / FOR CHINA DAILY

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd and SAIC Mo­tor Corp sign on a jointly de­vel­oped in­ter­net-en­abled ve­hi­cle, which was launched on Wed­nes­day in Hangzhou, while Alibaba’s Ex­ec­u­tive Chair­man Jack Ma (left) looks on.

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