Two of China’s biggest household brands have teamed up to create what they call “the world’s first mass-produced car on the internet.” E-commerce giant Alibaba and SAIC Motor, the country’s biggest car manufacturer, will launched the Roewe RX5, a sports utility vehicle (SUV) featuring smart technology from Alibaba’s operating system YunOS. First unveiled at the Beijing Auto Show in April this year, the RX5 is reportedly YunOS‘ first auto partnership.
Chinese tech giant Alibaba has launched the OS’Car RX5, a rugged-looking SUV that’s connected to the internet and powered by the company’s YunOS, allowing it to offer passengers a host of futuristic features.
For starters, it can recognize the driver by their smartphone or smartwatch and customize things to suit them, such as music and navigation waypoints.
The RX5 is available for pre-order now. It sounds great on paper – even more so when you consider that its starting price is a mere 99800 RMB ($14,930) and is priced upwards of RMB 148,800 ($22,300) with deliveries scheduled to start in August. It includes a new version of Alibaba’s Yun operating system to enable the car to connect to and tap into various internet services. The sports vehicle has been developed over the last two years as part of a joint venture between Alibaba and SAIC, which put a combined $160 million into the 50-50 project.
Alibaba raised a few examples of what that could mean in practical terms. It ranges from personalized greetings, music and preferred destinations based on settings that can be configured from a smartphone or wearable, to the ability to use Alibaba’s Alipay payments service to pay for parking spaces, fill up with gas or buy a coffee. It’s logical that Alibaba’s own services are a core part of possibility functionality, but the company said it wants to open YunOS to third parties, too.
The RX5 also comes with three integrated screens for the dashboard and rear view mirror, and four action cameras to shoot 360-degree selfies inside the vehicle and to capture footage of your journeys. On the entertainment side of things, the luxurious car includes three LED screens and space for up to four detachable 360 degree cameras to record video and take photos, IN-CAR SELFIES and a smart rear view mirror. The selfies can be shared instantly with friends via the connected smartphone. As one might expect, there is support for voice controls while an on board “intelligent” mapping system, the companies claim, will work without GPS or WiFi. It also boasts an intelligent map that offers location tracking and directions without the need for Wi-Fi or GPS services. Plus, the cabin is designed to be controlled primarily through voice commands.
On a serious note, one can’t help but worry about all the dangers of owning a car that’s connected to the internet, because that’s where hackers hang out. Alibaba’s RX5 claims to offer several internet-connected features, but I see each of them as opportunities for hackers to compromise the vehicle and potentially put passenger’s lives at risk. In February, researcher Troy Hunt showed that the Nissan Leaf electric car could be easily hacked using information from the car’s companion mobile app. Now the fears are not only based on stories about attackers gaining control of vehicles, but also on software bugs that could cause us to lose control of them. In April, some owners of Tesla’s high-tech Model X SUV reported that they were being locked out of their cars. It’s possible that this was a manufacturing issue, but one shudders to think of poorly written code rendering my care useless until fixed.
This sounds paranoid, but the reality is that securing digital devices is difficult, and creating strong systems to protect them takes time. Embedding cutting-edge tech into a car may allow us the luxury of convenient new functionality, but not without introducing a certain element of risk becomes a thing of the past.
The YunOS-enabled car named “OS’Car RX5” has been developed in collaboration with SAIC Motor Corporation. “YunOS for cars” is a smart operating system from Alibaba Group which is tailor-made for the automotive industry, the company said in a statement.
The opulent splendid car has advanced fuel technology, more powerful accelerator, lower oil consumption and have a shorter braking distance. With cloud-based data, YunOS provides OS’Car RX5 drivers with a series of innovative features like an intelligent map. The car is able to take direct commands through smart voice control, creating a more natural and safer driving environment. Audio is the primary mode for controlling the system.
As the first car with an “Internet ID”, the car can recognize the driver through connected smartphones or smartwatches. It also enables personalised Internet services such as greetings, preferred music and destinations. “YunOS will make cars an even more indispensable part of human life in the future society. Today marks the dawn of that new era. We feel proud and privileged to be playing a part in driving that change,” said Jack Ma, Executive Chairman, Alibaba Group.
OS’Car RX5 uses an open platform for different smart hardware and services which will enable the introduction of additional premium and creative driving experiences for users. The RX5 is a clear example of how car makers are employing big data to improve driver’s daily needs and mobility habits. In April, Alibaba said YunOS was the third-biggest operating system (OS) in the world with 40 million users as of 2015, adding that it would soon replace Apple’s iOS as the second biggest in the mainland, according to local media reports at the time. Google’s Android remains China’s most popular OS.
SAIC and Alibaba have promised that the car’s data capabilities would transform stressful driver experiences, such as negotiating traffic or undertaking maintenance, into enjoyable moments. “The RX5 will be able suggest alternate routes in the case of road closures or traffic as well as a more personalized experience in the car,” Russo said.
Already the world’s largest car market, China is set to become a key adopter of these trends, but there’s already heavy competition to win the hearts of mainland consumers.
Connectivity, electric power and autonomous driving were the three principal themes for the auto market as it increasingly merged with the internet industry, Bill Russo, managing director at Gao Feng Advisory Company, told CNBC’s “The Rundown”.
The RX5 is a clear example of how car makers are employing big data to improve driver’s daily needs and mobility habits.
Design is fairly typical for the segment; conservative with a sporty touch, featuring a big and shiny grille. The RX5 can be had with a 170 horsepower 1.5 turbo or a 220 horsepower 2.0 turbo. A plug-in hybrid version will join the lineup in August. The Roewe RX5 is and will be only available in China.