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Alibaba collaboration with Audi, Renault and Honda on Smart Cars

Chinese tech giant boosts automotive industry efforts to diversify business

Audi, Renault and Honda become the newest vehicle manufacturer into work with engineering teams at Alibaba Group Holding, with the Chinese electronic commerce company seeking to diversify its company while global automobile businesses seek to represent China’s sophisticated upper class.

The collaboration–announced at CES Asia Technology Show in Shanghai on Tuesday–will enable the three firms to install the AI smart speaker of Alibaba in their latest cars. The speaker, known as Tmall Genie, assists drivers to discover surrounding sights, buy cinema tickets and even order meals by speech. Those with Tmall Genie-compatible intelligent systems at home can also heat their bedroom or switch on machines while still on their way, said the businesses.

Car manufacturers are eager to discover new methods of stimulating demand after the Chinese car market recorded its first slowdown in more than two centuries last year, and the subsidy to electric vehicles has been cut.

The upcoming smart car “enables customers to have a greater link between situations in their house and life on the go,” said Guillaume Sicard, Renault’s vice president. By 2020 one out of two new vehicles marketed in China will have intelligent characteristics and partial autonomous functions at least as per the recommendations provided by the strong national scheduling organisation the National Development and Reform Commission last year.

Chinese technology businesses have shown an increasing stake in supporting the auto industry. In April, Tencent Holdings entered a $150 million initiative with the government-funded GAC Motor, the Chinese carmaker, to increase their attempts in smart driving. Didi Chuxing has meanwhile agreed with state-owned BAIC to create internet-connected vehicles.

“Intelligent linked vehicles will be a crucial way of decreasing highway traffic, pollution and consumption of energy,” said Minister Miao Wei at the industrial meeting last year, in Beijing. The Chinese smart car industry is estimated to achieve 100 billion yuan by 2020, based on Miao’s estimates.

The French carmaker, Renault, wants to develop an smart car co-designed with Alibaba this year, whereas manufacturing still is under debate with the two other carmakers, said Alibaba.

Last April, the Hangzhou-based firm introduced its Tmall Genie car system and has already collaborated with automakers including BMW and Volvo Cars to provide Chinese riders with smart vehicles. The automotive software is centred on Alibaba’s 2017 smart speaker Tmall Genie. It has delivered 10 million copies of the device so far, according to the business.

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