Alibaba has officially launched their first connected car in collaboration with Chinese automaker SAIC. It’s the fruit of a two-year long relationship backed by a joint investment of $160 million USD.
The RX5, a sport utility vehicle, is now available for pre-order through Tmall at 148,800 yuan ($22,000 USD), with the earliest models expected to ship in August, according to a blog post by the internet giant.
The car’s system is built on Alibaba’s on YunOS operating system, which has already been rolled out on other connected devices including smartphones and tablets.
Alibaba joins a slew of Chinese connected car projects that are seeking to dominate the realm of connected cars. Tencent, the social and gaming giant behind WeChat, released their own custom vehicle OS in September 2015, while LeEco released their auto operating system in January 2015. Like the aforementioned operating systems, Alibaba plans to open the platform to third-party developers.
“We believe in the future that 80 percent of the car’s functionality won’t be related to transportation,” said Alibaba CEO Jack Ma at a launch event in Hangzhou.
His comments echo LeEco CEO Jia Yueting who recently said he considers the car a “smart mobile device on four wheels.” Similarly, Baidu CEO Robin Li forecasted an “aggressive” spend on autos as “the next major computing platform,” during the company’s last earnings call.
According to Alibaba, the operating system will serve as a platform to connect the company’s existing e-commerce infrastructure, including Alipay. The car will also feature “360-degree detachable cameras for recording trips—and selfies.”