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May 31, 2019,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Alibaba looking to create integrated vocal assistant for smart cars

Ordering a meal, finding a restaurant and booking tickets from a vehicle via simple voice control may soon be possible thanks to an assistant currently being developed by Chinese e-commerce giants Alibaba. The solution is aimed at taking over the smart car market and should also work via touch and movement.

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Photo credits: Alibaba Group/Wikipedia 

At Auto Shanghai – the Chinese Motor Show held from 16–25 April this year – Alibaba announced that it had developed applications dedicated to smart cars which will enable users to book tickets to events, order meals and find restaurants using control that can be vocal, tactile and kinetic, according to a report on French website Objetconnecté. The Chinese e-commerce giant stated that the solution would also be made accessible to third-party developers who could produce other applications compatible with the AliOS operating system.

Integral control of the client path as the ultimate aim

Future Alibaba applications – based on agile architecture similar to APIs contained in small files that interact quickly – will be available via the Alipay contactless payment system. This is a strategic choice that will enable the company to have control over the client path from beginning to end, as is the case for Uber Eats and Deliveroo. At Auto Shanghai, Alibaba stated that a launch date for the solution had already been decided upon but did not say when it would be commercially available.

Other firms are looking to implement similar systems, including Domino’s Pizza who have been working on an automobile equivalent for Alexa since 2014, and General Motors who have set up a market place which enables users to order directly from suppliers such as Dunkin’ Donuts, IHOP and Wingstop.

Looking to conquer the Chinese connected car market 

With its involvement in various partnerships, including the creation of the Banma Network joint venture, Alibaba is now one of the biggest players in the Chinese smart car market. Its AliOS operating system has been adopted by automotive manufacturers SAIC Motor and Dongfeng Peugeot Citroën, who have integrated it on board over 700,000 smart vehicles to date.

The competition includes Tencent and Baidu, who are currently developing autonomous driving systems, but Alibaba has aligned with Android and is focusing primarily on infotainment platforms rather than a Waymo-type service. The food sector is another priority, and the Chinese e-commerce giant launched a chain of automated restaurants and supermarkets in Shanghai last summer.

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