Alibaba in partnership with SAIC, one of China’s big four state-owned automakers, have launched an ‘Internet Car’ in China. The term internet car refers to the Internet of Things (IoT) where everything is connected; your smartphone with your car, your car with your home, and your home with your phone.
Alibaba has been working on an internet-connected car for the past year, and just unveiled the project’s first model. To be clear, Alibaba has nothing to do with the actual car. It was designed and developed by the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). It is marketed under SAIC’s Roewe brand and sold via Roewe’s existing dealer network.
Alibaba’s share is the operating system for the vehicle’s infotainment system. The operating system is called YunOS for Car. It is based on the YunOS smartphone operating system. Alibaba wants to use various new YunOS variants to power a wide range of devices to create their Internet of Things. The devices include televisions, home-air conditioning systems, refrigerators, microwave ovens, game consoles, smart watches, and even robotic vacuum cleaners.
The internet giant on Wednesday showed off its new mid-size SUV, the Roewe RX5. It will retail for 148,800 yuan (converts roughly to $22,300, AU$30,000, £17,000) and will be available in August and is already up for pre-order — though international availability is not yet known.
Alibaba explains in a demo video that, like a personal mobile phone, each car is a unique device in an individual’s array of gadgets. For instance, the car can pay for gas without the driver getting out and going through a payment app on the phone or taking out a physical credit card.
“The difference between an internet car and a traditional car is that connected smart operating systems like YunOS will improve the consumer experience beyond just driving. Smart operating systems become the second engine of cars, while data is the new fuel,” said Dr. Wang Jian, chairman of Alibaba’s Technology Steering Committee.”
The RX5 which differs from a standard SUV through its integration with YunOS, Alibaba’s operating system, would be openned up to third party developers to design their own apps for the RX5.
Since the RX5 is cloud-connected, users will have an “internet ID” that allows them to personalize settings like temperature, music playlists and even have the car suggest places of interest, such as restaurants, based on past trips.
Alibaba getting into the automotive game is big news, partially due to the magnitude of the company. With roughly $15.7 billion in revenue last year, it’s one of the world’s biggest e-commerce brands and is one of China’s big three internet companies, alongside Tencent and Baidu.
It also boasts of an intelligent map that offers location tracking and directions without the need for Wi-Fi or GPS services. Finally, Alibaba’s internet car will have navigation and voice control features, as well as three LED screens for interfacing with the OS and 360-degree detachable cameras for recording trips—and selfies! And it is capable of controlling a drone. All cool gadgets for a car.
Alibaba internet car is already available for pre-order on Tmall for $22,250.