Chinese online retailer Alibaba seems to be investing in almost everything these days. Now the Hangzhou-based company has joined hands with the state-controlled SAIC Motor to create a one billion yuan ($160 million) fund to develop connected cars. Alibaba and SAIC Motor said they aimed the launch the Internet-connected cars by next year.
Alibaba may use YunOS in the connected cars
SAIC said in a statement that the 50-50 joint venture will be opened to other investors in the future. The JV will create a platform for design, development and operation of the Internet-connected cars. The two companies had first agreed to cooperate on connected cars in July 2014. At the time, Alibaba said that the Web-enabled car could one day be self-driven.
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Alibaba will provide cloud computing, communications, digital entertainment, and mapping services into the project. The e-commerce giant said the pair will use their advantages to set technology, customer experience and service standards in Internet-connected vehicles. Besides, Alibaba could use its own YunOS in the cars. The company has been trying to increase the adoption of its homegrown operating system. In February, Alibaba picked up a minority stake in Chinese smartphone maker Meizu for $590 million to have its OS pre-installed in Meizu smartphones.
Connected car market attracts many Chinese firms
Other Chinese Internet companies have also been working on connected cars. In January, Baidu teamed up with Hyundai Motor to bring connected cars to China. Hyundai is scheduled to launch its Sonata sedan compatible with Baidu’s CarLife in-vehicle infotainment system in April this year. The Chinese search engine giant is also planning to launch self-driving cars this year.
Chinese government hopes that Internet firms can inject innovation in the automobile industry. Internet TV and set-top boxes manufacturer Leshi Internet Information & Technology has also been working on Internet-connected cars since last year. U.S. tech giants are developing their own Internet-enabled cars. Apple will reportedly launch its Internet-connected electric car by 2020.
Alibaba shares fell 0.15% to $81.80 in pre-market trading Friday.