Alibaba's New 'Internet Car' Seems Just Like 'A Car'

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Alibaba, a huge Chinese E-Commerce company, just released the Roewe RX5, a vehicle marketed as an “internet car.” An “internet car” sounds like it could be A Thing, but really it seems like just a marketing term meaning “a car with an infotainment system.”

Unsurprisingly, Alibaba isn’t in the business of designing and engineering automobiles, so it partnered with the enormous, Chinese state-owned car company SAIC to develop the RX5, Alibaba’s news site Alizila says.

Why is this vehicle, which looks like an ordinary run-of-the-mill crossover, called an “internet car?” Well, chairman of Alibaba’s Technology Steering Committee Dr. Wang Jian told Alizila it has to do with the car’s YunOS operating system, which is also used in appliances like fridges, air conditioners and vacuums. Dr. Wang Jian told the news site:

The difference between an internet car and a traditional car is that connected smart operating systems like YunOS will improve the consumer experience beyond just driving...Smart operating systems become the second engine of cars, while data is the new fuel.


That’s fairly vague, but Alizila chimes in to describe the “internet car” further, saying the RX5 is Alibaba’s “push to change cars from mere methods of transport to connected devices in their own right.”

Again, fairly vague, and doesn’t clarify how the RX5 is different from other modern infotainment systems, though Dr. Wang Jian did tell Reuters that the new OS promises to allow the RX5 to “quickly introduce driverless vehicle technology,” at some point in the future.


No word on how far out that technology is.


Many automotive infotainment systems, like the one in the Tesla Model S, already offer connectivity that turns cars into part of the “internet of things,” and plenty of cars are already semi-autonomous, so basically, the RX5 seems like just a car with an infotainment system and a fancy marketing label.


Of course, the RX5 has some tricks up its sleeve, like its ability to use Alibaba’s e-commerce ecosystem to let drivers “book and pay for parking spaces, gas stations and coffee shops through Alipay.”

In addition, the RX5 promises a customizable user experience:

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.


Plus, there’s more, Alizili says:

Alibaba’s internet car will also have navigation and voice control features, as well as three LED screens for interfacing with the OS and 360-degree detachable cameras for recording trips—and selfies.


Yes, selfies.

Oh, and if you want your car to control a drone, the RX5 can do that, too:

Maybe I’m missing something, but the RX5 seems like basically a car with a smartphone built in. How that makes it different from other cars with fancy infotainment systems is beyond me, but regardless, Alibaba’s calling the car “the first mass-produced smart vehicle.”


If you’re buying into their hype, and you want this “first mass-produced smart vehicle,” get ready to throw down RMB 148,800, or about $22,300 this August. In China.