Smart cars, Alibaba and the future: €150m investment adds to burgeoning market

13 Mar 2015

Alibaba has just joined up with Chinese auto maker SAIC to invest around €150m into the development of internet-enabled cars.

Following the likes of Apple and Google, Alibaba is now targeting a future where operating systems dominate our car choices, with the potential for it’s YunOS – rivalling Android and iOS – significant.

Bloomberg reports that Alibaba and SAIC’s joint venture could see a connected car released as soon as next year, with the former providing cloud computing, digital entertainment, maps and financial data to the project.

“In the age of the Internet economy, cross-boundary integration has become an inevitable trend,” SAIC said. “The cars of the future must be Internet-oriented.”

Leshi, a Chinese IT business, has already claimed its investing billions of dollars into a field that has already seen Apple and Google announce plans for their own, solely-developed smart cars – even Uber is making plans in that regard.

Dashboard dalliance

The more imminent market, though, is a little less connectivity than ‘total smart’. For example there’s already a battle a brewing between Android and iOS as to who dominates the dashboard market over the coming years.

Two dozen car brands will offer smart-phone enabled dashboard capabilities, with the fight to gain a significant presence in current car models of primary concern to both Apple, Google and now Alibaba.

Of course, YunOS is miniscule in comparison to iOS, let alone Android, but the fact that it has already a strong brand in a market as significant as China means the potential is there for sharp growth and significant uptake.

China could become ground zero for the development and success of internet-enabled vehicles, however Google and Apple’s dominance elsewhere around the globe gives them a major advantage, and it’s hard to see Alibaba really challenge that.

What will be interesting to see, though, is how the Internet of Things plays its part, as a whole. Traffic management systems, GPS systems and operating systems all combined means even greater potential for those of means (political) to – by the metre, speed and second – track the movements of commuters.

Pretty scary stuff, but probably not scary enough to stop people connecting their phones to their cars…

Smart car image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic