Audi, the luxury car brand by Volkswagen, has signed an MOU with China’s three largest tech names, Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, as they seek to expand their China-based connected car research.
The agreement, inked on Sunday in Shanghai, involved the three tech giants along with Audi parent company FAW-Volkswagen, and lays out plans for future cooperation on connected car technology.
“China has become an important lead market for digital technologies. Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are strong innovators,” said Joachim Wedler, President of Audi China in a release.
Audi’s China operation, Audi China, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Audi AG, has an R&D operation that focusses on connected cars, new energy driving, digital services and piloted driving, according to the company. It’s their biggest research facility outside of Germany.
Audi says they are already working with Alibaba on mapping technologies, including real time traffic data and high-resolution 3D Maps.
The automaker plans on integrating Tencent’s WeChat MyCar services, an auto-focussed feature based off the highly popular social messaging service WeChat, that will adapt location and music sharing services for cars.
Audi also committed to a 2017 launch of Baidu’s ‘CarLife’ in its latest models, an in-vehicle digital platform designed for using Baidu applications.
None of the parties have disclosed financial details of the cooperation, or specific details on how the tech giants’ competing services, such as mapping technology, would be mediated in future partnership activities with Audi.
The deal is significant because it marks the first open collaborative partnership between an automaker and China’s dueling tech tycoons. While many traditional car companies are hedging their bets across internet companies, none have made overt attempts to simultaneously integrate cross-platform technology from multiple Chinese tech companies of this size.