Alibaba Group Holding announced partnerships with auto giants Audi, Renault and Honda on Tuesday, as the e-commerce juggernaut rolls out voice discovery services in cars at a time when smart speaker devices have become a battlefront among internet companies. Under the agreement, new cars with smart and internet-enabled features from the companies in China, will integrate Tmall Genie Auto, an artificial intelligence (AI) platform developed by Alibaba AI lab. Alibaba Group Holding announced partnerships with auto giants Audi, Renault and Honda on Tuesday, as the e-commerce juggernaut rolls out voice discovery services in cars at a time when smart speaker devices have become a battlefront among internet companies. Under the agreement, new cars with smart and internet-enabled features from the companies in China, will integrate Tmall Genie Auto, an artificial intelligence (AI) platform developed by Alibaba AI lab. This will offer car owners a range of voice-controlled services, including identification of nearby attractions and restaurants, the ability to book movie tickets and order items on Alibaba’s retail platform, order to-go food boxes and check the status of package deliveries. Car owners with a Tmall Genie smart speaker at home would also be able to monitor and control their smart-home devices remotely while driving, such as turning on the heater and air conditioner or running a status check on temperature and lighting. “By providing AI technologies, including speech recognition and natural language processing, Tmall Genie Auto enables car users to access an extensive in-car infotainment portfolio by tapping into Alibaba’s rich content and service ecosystem,” said Miffy Chen, general manager at Alibaba AI lab, in a statement. “Together, we can greatly enhance our in-car services and make the driving experience more intelligent and interconnected.” Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post. Apple’s HomePod smart speaker: feature-packed but for iOS users only “We aim to extend in-car voice assistant services according to the demands and needs of our Chinese customers,” said H.W. Vassen, senior director of digitalisation and new electric vehicle development at Audi China. “To do so, one of our next steps is to intensify the cooperation with Alibaba Tmall Genie.” The tie-up comes after Daimler, Audi and Volvo became the first global car brands to adopt Tmall Genie last year. The smart speaker platform competes with Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s HomePod in the fast-growing market. Since its debut in China in 2017, Tmall Genie says it now has over 100 million devices from over 600 smart appliance brands in settings which include the home, car, hotels and nursing homes. China’s smart speaker market grew almost eight-fold in the first quarter, with vendors shipping a total of 11.2 million units in the first three month of the year, according to data released by research firm IDC last week. Ximalaya FM develops smart speaker for CCP members Passing the 10 million mark puts smart speakers on an almost equal footing with personal computers and smart TVs in terms of popularity, although they are still behind smartphones, said Wang Jiping, assistant president of IDC China. Alibaba and Baidu tied for market leadership, with both shipping 3.4 million units, IDC’s data showed. Xiaomi was next with 2.9 million units. China has surpassed the US as the largest smart speaker market, according to data from research firm Canalys, which ranked Baidu as the world’s third-largest smart speaker vendor after Amazon and Google in the first quarter, with a 16 per cent market share. Alibaba ranked fourth with a 15.5 per cent market share.