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Alibaba announces AI deal with Audi, Daimler and Volvo

By He Wei | China Daily | Updated: 2018-04-24 07:03
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An employee uses an electronic handheld device as he performs a quality control check on the interior of an Audi automobile at the Audi AG production plant in Gyor, Hungary. [Photo/Agencies]

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd announced three partnerships on Monday with leading carmakers on artificial intelligence-backed connected vehicle services, cementing its commitment to the auto sector.

Under the cooperation, owners of Daimler, Audi and Volvo cars in China will be able to remotely access information about their vehicles, such as location, engine status and fuel checks, using Alibaba's voice assistant service.

AliGenie, the AI platform powering Alibaba's iconic smart speaker Tmall Genie, enables voice enquiries that unlock doors and turn on air conditioning before the driver even reaches the car, said Chen Lijuan, head of Alibaba AI Labs, an in-house AI research unit.

The tie-up will also help enrich the in-car infotainment portfolio based on Alibaba's content offerings from access to video site Youku and music streaming service Xiami.

"You can check the best route via Tmall Genie at home and send that information to your car," Chen told a media event in Beijing, citing the example of turning on the car's heater in winter as soon as the owner wakes up.

Ideally, the world will inch even closer to a future where people can control appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines from inside their car, she noted.

According to Alibaba, the first batch of such cars will be available in June, including selected Mercedes-Benz and Volvo models. For instance, Volvo's three current models, XC90, S90 and XC60, will integrate the AI-powered voice command feature through soft-ware upgrades in future rollouts.

Partnerships with other automakers will follow soon, Chen said.

Through the move, the tech powerhouse is scheduled to open up its ability on the so-called AI+Car solution from September.

Chinese customers are more willing to embrace new technologies and functionalities compared with consumers elsewhere, fueling momentum for developing smart interconnected cars, said Heinz-Willi Vassen, R&D director at Audi China.

Electrification, intelligence and interconnectedness are the big trends in the automotive industry, propelling internet companies such as Alibaba to leverage their frontier technologies to help carmakers adapt to these trends, said Neil Wang, president of consultancy Frost & Sullivan in China.

"AliGenie's application in intelligent transportation is a clear demonstration of how it combines the deep understanding of Chinese customers, the expertise in a number of technologies, with the products and solutions tailored to real-life needs," he said.

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