It’s now official that Alibaba has moved into the automobile space, after the company unveiling its first ‘Internet car’, that was manufactured following a collaboration with SAIC – one of China’s big four state-owned automakers. The sports vehicle which has been in developed over the last two years includes a new version of Alibaba’s Yun Operating system that enables it to connect and tap into various internet services. YunOs has been commonly used to make operating systems for mobile phones and tablets but of late it has been developed for smart home appliances including air conditioners, refrigerators, and robotic vacuum cleaner. The operating system is heavily used in China, with Alibaba reporting that as of 2015, it was the third-biggest operating system in the world with over 40 million users.
Alibaba gave a few examples of what the car could mean in practical terms. This ranges from personalized music, greeting and preferred destination based on the settings that can be configured using a smartphone or wearable, to the ability to use Alibaba’s Alipay payment service to fill up gas, buy a coffee or pay for parking. The car also has voice control and navigation features as well as three LED screens for interfacing with the OS and also for entertainment purpose. Interestingly the car features a 360-degree detachable camera for taking selfies and videos. The company also claims that the car has an ‘intelligent’ mapping system that works without WIFI or GPS.
The car does not feature next-level ‘smart’ the likes of autopilot, but Alibaba has concentrated on a connected car. The company noted that what it was creating was not ‘ internet in the car’ but a ‘car on the internet.’ Dr. Wang Jian, the chairperson of Alibaba’s ‘Technology Steering Committee, noted that smart operating systems become the second engines of cars, while data is the new fuel. He further pointed out that in future, cars will be an important platform for internet services and smart hardware innovation.
While some cars can access the internet using third-party software apps, Alibaba noted that it wants to make all cars to be a part of a larger IoT ecosystem, where the smart device will be in a position of collecting and exchanging data, with the purpose of improving efficiencies for their users. Wang indicated that cars are a new smart platform through which Alibaba can offer Internet-based services with the aim of creating a better driving experience for consumers.
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