The Chinese partner of Honda, Toyota makes its voice heard to produce smarter cars

Guangzhou Automobile Group (GAC) has tied up with Chinese voice specialist iFlyTek, the latest in a parade of automobiles marrying artificial intelligence to produce smart cars.

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 December, 2017, 7:37pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 8:22pm

Guangzhou Automobile Group, one of China’s largest state-owned carmakers, has formed a partnership with speech-recognition software specialist iFlyTek, taking a step forward in building next-generation vehicles.

GAC will use technology from iFlyTek in its smart vehicles that are under development, enabling drivers and passengers to better interact with the cars.

“The two companies have a consensus that intelligent voice interaction is the core technology to turn cars smarter,” GAC said in a statement.

GAC, also the joint venture partner of Japanese companies Toyota and Honda, has joined a clutch of mainland car manufacturers such as SAIC Motor and electric vehicle start-up Future Mobility actively working on digital transformation in the industry as they vie for a bigger share of the market in the next decade.

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Earlier this year, it signed a strategic agreement with Tencent to use the internet giant’s artificial intelligence technologies to develop new cars connected by the internet of things.

GAC’s other partners include telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies and telecom operator China Mobile as it promotes intelligent driving in domestic and global markets.

It has started construction of a 45 billion yuan (US$6.8 billion) industrial park in Guangzhou, which will specialise in the development and manufacturing of new-energy and internet-connected vehicles.

China’s largest three internet giants, including Tencent Holdings, Alibaba Group Holding and Baidu have been speeding up research and development of smart cars amid a rapid penetration of digital technologies in the world’s second-largest economy.

Chen Juhong, vice-president of Tencent, said in August that a certain number of vehicles with self-driving technologies will possibly be seen on the roads by 2020, because of the rapid improvements in the development of advanced driver assistant systems (ADAS).

She estimated that the market size of ADAS alone could reach 100 billion yuan by 2020.

In July, Baidu, the operator of China’s largest search engine, launched its Apollo platform, one of the world’s largest and most diversified open autonomous driving alliances, with more than 50 partners including Ford and Daimler.

SAIC’s own brand Roewe has teamed up with Alibaba, owner of the South China Morning Post, to build internet-connected sport-utility vehicles.

The Roewe RX5 SUV features smart technologies from Alibaba’s YunOS operating system, which includes an intelligent digital map and smart voice control.

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UBS analyst Hou Yankun said that Chinese companies’ efforts to develop smart cars can become successful if they can secure the world’s top-level scientists and engineers.

“Pacesetters of the industry are a rare species worldwide.”

GAC reported net profits of 8.96 billion yuan for this year’s first nine months, jumping 60 per cent from the same period in 2016.