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Alibaba launches smart car, and it is up for pre-order now!

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Your first reaction upon reading the title is probably somewhere along the lines of what? Where did that come from? But its true folks. Alibaba is officially moving into the automobile space and has unveiled its first “internet car” in collaboration with one of China’s largest, state owned carmakers.

The RX5 — thank god they didnt insist upon putting an Alibaba in the name — has been priced around RMB 148,800 (or $22,300). The car has been developed and tested over the course of the past two years and company will start delivery from August. The RX5’s meanwhile, will be powered by an operating system especially built for the automotive industry by the Alibaba’s YunOS division.

Lets take a quick look at the capabilities of Alibaba’s upcoming car. First off, in case you are thinking along the lines of self-driving — well, nope. The car is smart and connected folks, and it wont allow driving with your hands disconnected just yet. Instead, the smart portion translates into personalized greetings, music and preferred destinations based on settings that can be configured from your very own smartphone or wearable.

The company will also continue to leverage consumer data to tailor those features to each individual driver. Each driver will have an “internet ID” that allows the OS to not only recognize different users but also to make recommendations for music, air temperature or nearby restaurants based on past trips.

You also get an integration with Alibaba’s alipay payment system which will let you settle the bill for parking spaces, gas and even coffee. Obviously, you get voice controls but also present is a shiny new mapping system. The maps that come with the RX5 are pretty special as Alibaba claims that they dont need either Wi-Fi or GPS to work. Yes, we are as curious as you as to how on earth they do work and will be sure to transfer any knowledge we receive, your way.

There are also three LED screens inside the car along with a new level of crazy for photo freaks in the form of space for up to four detachable 360 degree cameras. The cameras can both record videos and take photos inside the car. Speaking on the topic, Dr. Wang Jian, Chairman of Alibaba’s Technology Steering Committee, said

What we are creating is not ‘internet in the car’, but a ‘car on the internet’. This is a significant milestone in the automobile industry. Smart operating systems become the second engine of cars, while data is the new fuel.

Wise words and that engine-fuel analogy is pretty cool too. Cars are definitely the primary means of transport on this planet and considering the crazy amounts of time spent on-board, it only makes sense for them to be connected to the internet. Meanwhile, the RX5 is up for grabs and can be ordered through Tmall.

Meanwhile, Apple and Uber make for a pretty partnership that according to rumors, may just have a smart car developing somewhere between them. Well, Alibaba is one of the main investors behind Didi Chuxing — Uber’s largest Chinese rival — and the latest announcement makes for some interesting brainstorming fodder.

Will Didi deploy these cars as taxis somedays? Or perhaps it will find a use for Alibaba’s YunOS? There are certainly some very interesting possibilities there. What do you think? Do let us know by commenting right below.


A bibliophile and a business enthusiast.

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