Close

For China's Alibaba, the Magic Word Is "Connected Car"

That makes it the second Chinese tech giant this week to hop on the smart-car bandwagon

1 min read
A smoothed boulder painted with the Alibaba logo
Photo: Imaginechina/AP Photo

Alibaba—China’s biggest tech companysays it’s entering a joint venture with SAIC Motor, China’s largest auto company, to build a connected car. The car, which could hit the roads as early as next year, would communicate with other cars via the cloud.

The news comes just days after Baidu—China’s biggest search company—said it would build a self-driving car, and just weeks after a Chinese government official suggested that tech companies should foster innovation in the auto industry. Maybe it was more than just a suggestion.

In any case, the news represents the confluence of two trends: the tech invasion of automaking and the attempt of governments to be seen leading the charge.

The techie invasion began in 2010, when Google unveiled its famous Google car project. Now Apple may be in the hunt, according to Valley gossip fueled by citings of sensor-festooned Apple cars and reports that the company is poaching engineering talent from Tesla Motors and battery-maker A123. Wags have already speculated how the experience of driving a future Apple car might turn out.

Government positioning also began its stately minuet some years ago in the United States, when states like California, Nevada and Michigan began competing with one another to be the first to welcome robocars to the roads. Joining them in recent months Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands have all announced robocar strategies, sometimes using language that betrayed a certain fear of being left in Google’s dust. One wonders how they will react to Alibaba and Baidu.

The Conversation (0)

How Software Is Eating the Car

The trend toward self-driving and electric vehicles will add hundreds of millions of lines of code to cars. Can the auto industry cope?

14 min read
ZF Friedrichshafen AG

Predictions of lost global vehicle production caused by the ongoing semiconductor shortage continue to rise. In January, analysts forecast that 1.5 million fewer vehicles would be produced as a result of the shortage; by April that number had steadily climbed to more than 2.7 million units, and by May, to more than 4.1 million units.

The semiconductor shortage has underscored not only the fragility of the automotive supply chain, but placed an intense spotlight on the auto industry’s reliance on the dozens of concealed computers embedded throughout vehicles today.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less