Tencent to bring WeChat and mini programs to autonomous driving

During the 2018 World Intelligent Connected Vehicles Conference opened on October 18, Tencent’s Pony Ma said the company hopes to bring social networking advantages to more industrial units. The company wishes to transform WeChat into a smart interaction medium which allows users to interact with service softwares and vehicle hardware.

“A user can use voice interaction to send out and receive WeChat messages, and may be able to do it by pushing buttons on the steering wheel. We’re also planning to allow the user to quickly change the message setting to voice call. The voice interaction features will also synchronize the user’s location to a friend and a smart navigation system,” Ma explained during the conference.

Additionally, Tencent wants its technology  to automatically activate service softwares when a user drives to service sites such as gas stations and parking lots, and remind a user of any vehicle issues including low gas level.

Ma also suggested in the speech that future mass production of autonomous driving vehicles requires the capability to manage mass data and complex ecosystems. Tencent’s 1 billion global users and rich software use cases, as he highlighted, will offer significantly helpful assistance.

Prior to the conference, Tencent’s vehicle partner GAC Motor launched electricity powered GE3 530 in August. The model is equipped with a mini program called “Tencent My Car”, which allows a driver to search for charging piles and complete automatic parking and toll gate payment.

However, Ma explained that in-car social features are in process of development, and will be released formally when driving safety can be best assured. TechNode reached out to Tencent for further details, but has not received any update by the publication of the article.

Tencent has been acting aggressively in autonomous driving and industrial internet of things (IoT) sectors. The company announced last month that connecting consumption to industrial business would be a strategic priority in the coming future. According to Ma’s conference speech, Tencent has opened its navigation may system, simulation platform, and data services to partner vehicle manufacturers. BMW, Geely, and First Automotive Works are among Tencent’s cooperation partner list regarding an “AI in car” project the company introduced on November, 2017.

Meanwhile, Tencent-invested Momenta, a Chinese autonomous driving startup which just claimed a unicorn status, accumulated $200 million in funding.

“Intelligent connected vehicles are becoming a crucial intersection where some latest technologies such as AI, IoT, 5G, new energy, and smart city meet each other. Smart vehicles will be a carrier of innovation and breakthrough expectations of other tech sectors,” Ma added.