They might not be driverless, but Alibaba is already getting into cars
It seems like just a few days ago, Chinese technology titan Alibaba was announcing a new interest in the trend towards autonomous vehicles. This week, the company made another car-related announcement: that it was taking a sideways step into the automotive world with the help of an hold friend: Tmall Genie.
Alibaba’s share price has increased by 55% over the past 12 months
SOURCE: Yahoo Finance
On Monday, news broke that Alibaba’s year-old virtual personal assistant (VPA), the Tmall Genie, would be coming to Mercedes-Benzes, Audis, and Volvos in China. Alibaba says these are just some of the 100 brands now partnered with the technology, which is modeled on Amazon’s Alexa, and might best be conceived of as a “Chinese version” of the Amazon assistant.
The Tmall Genie offers voice controlled AI services, like playing music or ordering things online. In the west, VPA home speakers is currently the Next Big Thing – but China has been slower to catch on. Nonetheless, Alibaba has already shipped more than 2 million units. Given that Alibaba has 450 million-plus users, the opportunity to sell speakers that can simplify their online retail experience is too good an opportunity to pass up.
The three automotive brands that have signed up for Alibaba’s Tmall Genie are amongst the most popular luxury car brands in China, which is now the world’s biggest auto market. At first, the functionality is pretty much what you would expect: contacting your system at home to check the doors are locked, turning on your in-car air conditioning, or making sure your battery is in good condition, are all things the Tmall Genie can do for you right now.
But this is set to change: Alibaba is working hard to integrate the tech more fully with the vehicles in which it will sit. In this sense, they’re looking to deliver another side of the car of the future. Lijuan Chen, Alibaba’s head of AI Labs, said in a statement:
“Identifying how to serve our car users with Tmall Genie’s skill sets is one of our top priorities.”
Dominion holds Alibaba in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.
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