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Xu Liuping, chairman of state-owned FAW Group, speaks at an event of Chinese car marque Hongqi, or Red Flag, held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on January 8. Photo: Reuters

Alibaba and FAW team up to deliver next-generation smart vehicles

  • The tie-up will leverage Alibaba’s Banma Network Technology platform to build a new intelligent connected vehicle operating system

Alibaba Group Holding has teamed up with China’s state-owned FAW Group Corp to jointly build next-generation smart vehicles, as competition intensifies in the world’s largest car market ahead of the broader roll-out of 5G networks.

Their partnership will involve Banma Network Technology, an Alibaba-led open mobility platform, to develop a new intelligent connected vehicle operating system and help promote the use of digital intelligence in the car industry, according to a joint statement released by Alibaba and FAW on Thursday.

FAW – the Chinese joint venture partner of major industry players including Volkswagen, Toyota Motor Corp and Mazda Motor Corp – will also use Banma’s technologies and resources to help design “smart cockpit solutions” for its upcoming vehicles, the statement said.

This marks the first strategic alliance announced by Alibaba, the parent company of the South China Morning Post, since the e-commerce giant opened up its operating system for use by car industry partners in August last year.

China’s FAW Group plans an electric future for Red Flag, Chairman Mao’s preferred car

An Alibaba spokeswoman said on Thursday that the two partners had no specific timeline to announce regarding their joint initiative.

The tie-up comes months after Dongfeng Motor Corp, one of China’s top five carmakers, partnered with Tencent Holdings and China Mobile to develop connected vehicle services in preparation for the wider roll-out of 5G services across the country.

The advent of 5G mobile networks around the world is expected to transform the car sector and other industries, as the advanced infrastructure provides faster access to data and accommodates greater computing workloads simultaneously to a vast number of users.

With peak data rates up to 100 times faster than 4G, 5G is expected to serve as the connective tissue for autonomous cars, smart cities, devices that are part of the Internet of Things (IoT), and a range of new mobile applications.
China is targeting 30 per cent of all cars sold in the market by 2025 to be “intelligent connected vehicles”, providing a range of automated features, according to a draft plan released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

FAW, parent of Chinese luxury car brand Red Flag, said it will build up its global digital infrastructure by leveraging Hangzhou-based Alibaba’s resources, including its cloud computing operations, according to their joint statement.

Alibaba’s data intelligence technologies will also be used by the carmaker to boost its capabilities in areas including product research and development, marketing and customer services.

China’s Xpeng will equip P7 coupe with Alibaba’s mini-app platform to boost in-car services

The two companies also agreed to explore other fields – including IoT, so-called edge computing and blockchain technology – for applications such as smart logistics and high-definition maps.

Alibaba, which began developing its own car operating system in 2010, debuted its first internet-connected car in 2016. The features supported by its car operating system cover intelligent speech recognition, high-definition maps, drive-through payment capabilities, augmented reality navigation and online-to-offline services booking.

Internet rival Baidu, China’s online search giant, launched its Apollo autonomous driving platform a year later.

Alibaba estimated that around 1 million cars driven in China are equipped with its car operating system, including vehicles made by SAIC Motor Corp, Dongfeng Peugeot-Citroen Automobile Co, Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen Automobile Company, Changan Ford and Škoda Auto.

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