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Chinese internet giants join race for smart vehicle OS development

wuzhenwic.org Updated: 2021-08-10

China's internet players are joining the automobile manufacturing team to advance electrification, intelligentization, networking and sharing.

SAIC Audi and Ali Cloud signed a memorandum of understanding in mid-July this year that involves cooperation of global marketing, networking of vehicles, digital scenario development and smart logistics.

Based on technologies like cloud computing, the internet of things and intelligent data, the two sides will play their full roles in promoting digital transformation of the automobile industry and building an ecosystem of smart traveling.

Jia Mingdi, executive vice-president of sales and marketing of SAIC Audi, said that the company is now seeking more cooperation with outstanding internet and technology enterprises to enrich its digital products and services in order to provide buyers more comfortable and smarter experiences.

Li Qiang, vice president responsible for the smart sector at Ali Cloud, said that technology and production styles are currently being reshaped, and added that Ali Cloud looks forward to joining hands with SAIC Audi to provide the automobile industry with innovative products, solutions and services and to explore a more convenient and humanized vehicle-based digital life.

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Development of smart car-related products has become a favorite pursuit of both automobile manufacturers and internet enterprises. [Photo/IC]

Ali Cloud also has an eye on vehicle-mounted systems.

The company released a goal last November of aiming to install its AliOS system on 10 million vehicles within three years.

In addition to Ali Cloud, other internet enterprises in China are also in the game.

The Chinese internet search giant Baidu Inc has set its foot on the automatic drive pedal. The company released three business models of its Apollo automatic drive platform this May, namely to provide Apollo technological solutions to automobile enterprises, develop next generation smart cars by establishing a joint venture with Chinese automaker Geely Group and evolve into an unmanned sharing travel service provider by launching unmanned taxi service lines in multiple cities.

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Unmanned public transportation is under joint development by some manufacturers and internet enterprises. [Photo/IC]

Li Yanhong, chairman and CEO of Baidu Inc, said that 1 million vehicles are expected to be installed with Apollo in the next three to five years.

Tencent is also speeding up in smart travel.

In 2015, the company released its first product for internet connected vehicles. In 2017, it developed the "AI in car" smart car solution, which is upgraded in 2020.

So far, Tencent has reached agreements with 31 automobile enterprises and more than 300 related companies and its product is in use on 120 types of vehicles.

Huawei is also a competitive driver on the race track.

According to Gu Huinan, general manager of GAC New Energy Automobile, who was speaking on July 27, the company will work together with Huawei on building a high-end automobile brand which will have three series of products. The first, an SUV equipped with Huawei-developed smart vehicle solutions, is scheduled to debut in 2023.

Huawei has released more than 30 kinds of components for smart cars, such as the mobile data center, lidar, the HarmonyOS smart cockpit, a vehicle-cloud service and integrated power assembly. It has also reached agreements with more than 20 automobile plants on installing its smart vehicle operating system HiCar onto 150 types of cars. It is expected that more than 5 million vehicles will be equipped with the system within the year.

Among all the efforts in advancing smart vehicles, software development has been given priority by both automobile manufacturers and internet enterprises.

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Many internet enterprises are developing dedicated vehicle-mounted operating systems for smart cars. [Photo/IC]

Different from traditional automobile manufacturing that concentrates on assembling components from all over the world, smart vehicles depend largely on software.

In the human-centered era, upgrading in driving experience, framework, models and ecosystems of automobile are needed, said Ye Shengji, deputy secretary-general of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Therefore, the difficulty of making a car now is in assembling and operating millions of lines of codes instead of just assembling components.

Wang Jun, president of HUAWEI Intelligent Automotive Solutions BU, said that 12 Huawei developed vehicle-mounted sub systems have been added to HarmonyOS, making it an operating system dedicated to smart cars.

Automobile manufacturers have also made progress in smart car development.

In late June this year, Dongfeng Motor completed a new car which is equipped with a high-level smart driving assistance system and 24 smart sensors.

Volvo also announced that its future cars will be installed with the self-developed VolvoCars.OS and users of the cars will be able to upgrade the functions remotely.

Zhang Jie, general manager of Chang'an Automotive Software Technology Co, said that the automobile industry will continue to integrate with big data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence and the new automobile industry centered on software-defined vehicles will be rapidly shaped.

He added that in the future automobiles will no longer simply be transportation but rather large smart mobile rooms, data collection carriers, energy storage units and high-level computing centers.

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Smart cars in the future will no longer simply be transportation but rather large smart mobile rooms, data collection carriers, energy storage units and high-level computing centers. [Photo/IC]

The additional functions will no-doubt raise the importance of vehicle-mounted operating systems.

The current systems are mainly of four types: basic systems including kernels and bottom drivers like QNX, Linux and WinCE; customized systems developed from basic types of systems; ROM types that only change the build-in applications; and vehicle-smart phone interconnection systems that can be projected onto a phone.

Because automobile and internet enterprises seldom work on basic types of operating systems as they cost too much labor and money, there are still quite a number of different kinds of systems for vehicles.

Lack of unified standards and incompatible products may drag down development of the industry.

Experts say that both automobile manufacturers and internet enterprises should work together to create an open and smart automobile ecosystem.


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