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Alibaba’s first internet car to hit the road in August

“Find me a cafe,” Jack Ma told the RX5 SUV.

The vehicle, prompted by voice commands, drove to its destination.

This was the scene at Alibaba’s launch of the new smart vehicle RX5 SUV on Wednesday in the southern Chinese city Hangzhou.

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Ma called it a new milestone, to create the first mass-produced internet car in China.

Back in 2015, Alibaba and SAIC Motor Corporation, China’s largest automaker, established a fund of RMB one billion (USD 150 million) for building an “internet car” under their strategic partnership – SAIC to do manufacturing, and Alibaba to support in technology.

A hybrid electric version of RX5 will later be introduced, before the pure-electric version comes out, according to NetEase this April.

Mounted on Alibaba’s YunOS system, the smart car is connected to an Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem to provide customized user experiences. YunOS for Cars is a comprehensive operating system developed specifically for smart cars, aiming to make the interaction between the driver and the car more efficient.

YunOS for Cars allows RX5 to not only inform drivers of the state of car’s components, such as the tire pressure, but also to make it work like a smartphone that creates reminders, calculates an optimal route from A to B, and reserves and pays for a parking space via Alipay. Yet as a wholesome operating system, YunOS for Car does not require a smartphone to work, because everything is run on the cloud.

Each driver of RX5 has a unique ID. Using driver-input data such as music, restaurants, or other driver destinations, the data is used to recommend customized user experiences for the driver. In addition, it can learn from driver’s history routes and driving habits, and suggest new routes if the road ahead is blocked – or even if a traffic jam is expected. The SUV also supports 360-degree cameras and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

“Cars in the future will be more like our friend rather than a tool,” said Ma. He said that as many cutting-edge technologies have been built into it, 80% of the functions of cars in the future may have little to do with transportation per se, similar to how people nowadays use smartphones more for taking photos and surfing the internet than making phone calls.

What is more, Ma believes that clean energy vehicles will become the mainstream, and that autonomous driving will become a must-have built-in technology for all cars. However, considering the current situation of transport in China, Alibaba is not considering working on driverless cars, as they may have a long way to go before they are popular, said Zhang Yong, CEO of Alibaba.

RX5 became available for pre-order on Tmall yesterday, and is priced between RMB 99,800 and RMB 186,800. Deliveries are available in August.

(Top photo from Baidu Images)

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