Mercedes, Audi and Volvo tie up with Alibaba to connect Genie smart speaker  

The tie-up marks the first time that Tmall Genie will be connected to vehicles to offer “home-to-car” services in China

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 April, 2018, 10:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 April, 2018, 10:54pm

Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Volvo car owners in China will have a new choice for controlling their cars from home as the three car brands tie up with Alibaba to connect its smart speaker.

Daimler, Audi and Volvo are the first global car brands to adopt Alibaba Group’s voice-activated assistant Tmall Genie, the Hangzhou-based company announced on Monday. Tmall Genie competes with Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s HomePod in the fast-growing market for smart speakers.  

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Users will be able to monitor their cars, lock car doors, turn on air conditioning and plan a route by speaking to their smart speakers at home, the first time that Tmall Genie will be connected to vehicles to offer “home-to-car” services in China. Previously, the voice assistant can perform functions like controlling music and television, reading stories or ordering takeaway food via voice command.

“Individuals spend a significant amount of time in cars alongside home and office, and through connectivity it can become an important part of life,” Chen Lijuan, head of Alibaba AI Labs, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to partner with distinguished auto brands to drive the revolution of smart mobility in China.”

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To ensure the security of vehicle control, voice print technology – like fingerprint scans but for voice – will be employed to identify authorised car users before the execution of any voice command, according to Alibaba, parent company of South China Morning Post.

“We hope to create a more intelligent and personalised mobility experience for consumers,” said Chen. Users will also be able to control their Tmall Genie-connected home appliances from their cars, Chen said. 

Alibaba has sold more than two million units of Tmall Genie since its debut in China in July 2017. In a new version launched last month, the company added visual functions, allowing the speaker to scan and read books and medicine labels.

For the major Chinese internet companies, smart speakers not only help gather data for things like user preferences and speech patterns, it also ensures that users stay within their ecosystem of services.

Last week, Tencent signed a partnership agreement with FAW Group to develop internet connected cars, the sixth carmaker in the alliance after Changan, GAC Group, Geely, BYD and Dongfeng Liuzhou Motor. Baidu is striving to make its DuerOS operating system the Android equivalent for connected devices.