Editor’s note: This piece was contributed by David Green, a Taipei-based writer and journalist covering the future of work in Asia.

Imagine being transported through a gleaming city of the future in a driverless car. All that space outside, all those windows through which to watch your world pass by. Who would want to spend the journey head buried in a smartphone, like the ditouzu (低头族) on the subway? No one, at least that’s the bet Alibaba seems to be making by leading the recent $18-million investment in WayRay, the Russian-Swiss developer of holographic AR tech for connected cars.

The series B investment amounts to more than just financing as it comprises a strategic partnership with Banma Technologies, an independent startup backed by Alibaba and leading state-owned automaker SAIC Motor, that is dedicated to developing tech for connected cars. Alibaba and SAIC have already made their first foray into the segment with the RX5, a connected sports vehicle the pair released last year based on Alibaba’s YunOS. Partnerships like this are springing out of the paintwork all over the map. Volkswagen, for example, recently said it will invest $180 million in Beijing-based Mobvoi to establish a joint venture focused on developing voice recognition and language tech for its next generation of artificial intelligence-enabled vehicles.

Start your free trial now.

Get instant access to all our premium content, archives, newsletters, and online community.

Monthly Membership

Yearly Membership

What you get

Full access to all premium content and our full archives

Members'-only newsletters

Preferential access and discounts to all TechNode events

Direct access to the TechNode newsroom

Start your free trial now.

Get instant access to all our premium content, archives, newsletters, and online community.

Monthly Membership

Yearly Membership

Guest Editor

TechNode Guest Editors represent the best our community has to offer: insight and perspective on how technology is affecting business and culture in China