19 January 2019
Alibaba has set up a 1 billion yuan fund with SAIC Motor Group to develop internet-enabled cars. Photo: Bloomberg
Alibaba has set up a 1 billion yuan fund with SAIC Motor Group to develop internet-enabled cars. Photo: Bloomberg

Alibaba steps up fight for leadership in internet cars

Being a dominant player in China’s e-commerce market is obviously not enough for Alibaba. Aside from snapping up or buying into a wide range of technology companies, it is also moving into another new arena: internet-connected cars.

The New York-listed behemoth has set up a 1 billion yuan (US$160 million) fund with SAIC Motor Group to develop internet-enabled cars, which they hope will hit the road as soon as next year.

SAIC will be responsible for designing and manufacturing the internet autos, while Alibaba will provide technology support using its clouding system Aliyun, according to mainland media reports.

Alibaba and SAIC Motor will each contribute 500 million yuan to the fund.

Alibaba chief technology officer Wang Jian told reporters the internet car technology can promote development in four key areas: human, vehicles, roads and infrastructure.

“In the age of the internet economy, cross-boundary integration has become an inevitable trend,” SAIC said in the statement. “The cars of the future must be internet-oriented.”

Through internet connection, drivers can easily obtain information such as traffic conditions, car park locations as well as GPS navigation.

While Alibaba is the paramount leader in e-tailing, it’s too early to predict the fate of its car venture, as other major carmakers and internet companies, both domestic and foreign, are also racing to become the leader of the internet car market.

Apple introduced its in-car operating system CarPlay to the market last year. Tencent and Baidu have also launched their own operating systems for internet cars.

Even online video operator LeTV is interested in the business. In January the group announced its intention to enter the smart electric car industry, and is currently developing an operating system for smart automobile navigation.

Internet car is not the only big thing in the auto sector. There are also big bets on driverless car technology.

Google has the most advanced technology in the field; it is now testing its driverless car in several countries including the United States and Britain.

During the “Two Sessions” held last week, where top leaders discussed the nation’s economic policies, Miao Wei, Minister of Industry and Information Technology, revealed that China is developing a 5G wireless technology.

The technology can be applied to the development of a driverless car, which will be a major leap forward for the auto industry.

“When the driverless car becomes part of our daily life, people will have more leisure time. They can shop and entertain themselves in the car. This is the market that tech players are eyeing,” Chan Foon-yu of Guotai Junan Securities told Ming Pao.

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EJ Insight writer

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