Alibaba and SAIC have jointly launched an ‘Internet Car’ in China, Alibaba says. The term internet car refers to the Internet of Things (IoT) where everything is connected; your smartphone with your car, your car with your home, and your home with your phone.
Alibaba has nothing to do with the actual car. It was designed and developed by the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). It is marketed under SAIC’s Roewe brand and sold via Roewe’s existing dealer network.
Alibaba’s share is the operating system for the vehicle’s infotainment system. The operating system is called YunOS for Car. It is based on the YunOS smartphone operating system. Alibaba wants to use various new YunOS variants to power a wide range of devices to create their Internet of Things. The devices include televisions, home-air conditioning systems, refrigerators, microwave ovens, game consoles, smart watches, and even robotic vacuum cleaners.
The Roewe RX5 is a compact SUV. Price ranges from 99,800 to 186,800 yuan ($15,000 – 28,000), positioning the RX5 in the most competitive SUV segment of the hyper competitive Chinese market.
The RX5 can be had with a 170 horsepower 1.5 turbo or a 220 horsepower 2.0 turbo. A plug-in hybrid version will join the lineup in August. The Roewe RX5 is and will be only available in China.
SAIC is one of China’s largest automakers via its joint ventures with General Motors and with Volkswagen. Its own Roewe and MG brands are tiny in comparison. Roewe was founded in 2006 on the ruins of British car maker MG Rover.
Alibaba has added some new and clever features to YunOS. By using Alibaba’s e-commerce network drivers are able to book and pay for parking spaces, gas stations, and shops. Each user of the vehicle gets a unique “internet ID” that enables the operating system to recommend music or nearby restaurants based on data gathered during earlier trips.
The system syncs with the agenda of your smartphone and the navigation system is able to find and drive to the people you are supposed to meet. Alibaba has also developed an app that can be used to check the vehicle’s status, start and pre-heat, and open the tailgate.
And, most importantly today: the infotainment system is connected to a cabin-facing camera for making selfies, which can be uploaded immediately to the web via the permanent 4G internet connection.
Alibaba will roll out new features in the near future and will open the platform for applications built by third-party developers.