China's internet giant Baidu partnered with major car companies including Audi, Hyundai and General Motors to launch CarLife, a cross-platform solution for connected cars, on Jan. 27 in Beijing, reports our Chinese-language sister paper the Commercial Times.
Connected cars are cars equipped with internet access. There are currently 150 million such cars in China. This shows a changing era is coming, said Baidu's vice CEO Liu Jun at the press briefing on Jan. 27.
Based on Baidu Maps, the company's digital mapping service, CarLife provides users with services including route planning, location inquiries, distance estimations, and navigation advice that helps users to avoid traffic. Users need only cable lines or WiFi to connect smartphones to the in-car system and access to all related applications.
Baidu welcomes app developers and internet partners to develop CarLife further and is willing to provide development standards. And as long as the apps suit users' needs, it costs no money to have a slot at the CarLife platform, said Liu.
China's three biggest internet companies Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT) are all involved in the connected car industry. Baidu launched smart car product Carnet in April 2014, allowing users do voice searches, location searches, and other services.
Tencent launched the first smart car hardware, "lubao box," in June 2014, connecting vehicles to the internet through cloud computing technology. the technology enables drivers to examine the car's condition such as fuel consumption on the road. Alibaba acquired digital map content and navigation provider AutoNavi in April 2014 for US$1.5 billion, largely considered a move to enter auto industry, the report said.
A report issued by UK-based automotive market research firm SBD said the global market of connected cars will reach €39 billion euro (US$44 billion) in 2018 while the number was only €13 billion euro (US$14.6 billion) in 2012. It suggested more than half of the cars in the world will be able to provide connected car services in 2015.