Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba introduced its first automobile last week, the RX5 sport utility vehicle, set to be delivered to customers in August. The company called the vehicle, made with Chinese carmaker SAIC, the first “Internet car” in a news release. It will run software developed by Alibaba’s YunOS division to connect with other smart devices, the company said. It will retail for 148,800 yuan, or $22,300.
Alibaba in its announcement said the car will use the company’s own e-commerce platform to deliver such services as finding parking spaces, locating gas stations or making restaurant reservations. Drivers will also be able to pay for services from the car using “Alipay.”
Different drivers and passengers will be able to use their own Alibaba accounts, similar to Amazon.com accounts, for individual access to services and payment. The car will also use those accounts to recommend services such as music or destinations.
Those predictive software aspects make auto developers think Alibaba has entered the auto space with an eye toward autonomous vehicles. The YunOS software, industry analysts say, is Alibaba’s entry point to allow its cars to communicate with other vehicles and nearby businesses, making a strong step toward connected and autonomous vehicles.
The car marks Alibaba’s first foray into the auto market. Google has for years been experimenting with autonomous car technology. Apple has a large presence in vehicle “infotainment,” or systems that integrate car amenities with performance. QNX, a BlackBerry subsidiary, is also a leader in the field.
Source: Washington Post