When rumors of Google’s self-driving car first started circulating, the usual suspects came out of the woodwork to belittle the company for even trying such an idea. Fast forward to March 2016 and Alibaba seems to have taken Google’s lead despite the detractors.
Quartz reported that Alibaba is set to unveil one of its most unique product launches yet: a connected smart car. The product of collaborative efforts from manufacturer Roewe, SAIC Motor Corp and smartphone software firm Meizu, Alibaba’s connected SUV will reportedly be unveiled at April’s Beijing Auto Show, though the scant details offered by Alibaba to Quartz can fill in some gaps until then.
The Chinese eCommerce giant’s first foray into the connected car market will be branded as Roewe City SUVs, and the internal computer will run off of Meizu’s mobile operating system Yun OS.
“[Connectivity] will become a must-have feature of future cars and will help the user struggle through the ‘painful moments’ of owning a car as well as create ‘sweet moments’ in travel,” Jing Lei, chief engineer at SAIC, told Quartz.
With one of China’s biggest eCommerce powerhouses throwing its hat into the connected car ring, it seems as if the long-held predictions of an explosion of autonomous vehicles aren’t so far-fetched after all. However, the growth of the industry has a ways to go – even if Alibaba can make strides with Chinese consumers. ABI Research estimated that as many as 72 percent of new passenger cars could be sold equipped with full connectivity capabilities by as soon as 2021, but only if more countries take China’s lead and accelerate research and development.
Contrary to popular opinion, ABI managing director and vice president Dominique Bonte said that it’s this commitment to innovation in things like security and functionality that will get connected cars over the hump.
“Despite major market growth in OEM telematics, though, cybersecurity continues to remain a challenge,” Bonte said in a statement. “To overcome this obstacle, many car OEMs are implementing over-the-air software capabilities, which in itself is expected to become a major growth driver for vehicle connectivity in the future.”