Alibaba is developing a voice-driven version of its enterprise communication and collaboration app DingTalk for vehicle use, local media is reporting, citing people familiar with the matter.
The service is expected to be integrated into Banma System, the AliOS-enabled operating system for connected cars which Alibaba developed with its strategic partners Banma Network Technology—a joint venture between Alibaba Group and SAIC Motor Crop. The system is installed in over 600,000 cars so far, and thus may facilitate the adoption of the new DingTalk version when it’s being released.
“Making sure that drivers can keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel are the bottom line for in-vehicle interaction, but the challenge is huge,” the source added.
It’s interesting to note that Pony Ma announced earlier this month that Tencent is also planning to bring its social networking app WeChat to cars by leveraging voice-control technologies.
As the world’s fastest-growing automotive market, China is experiencing an increase in connected in-vehicle infotainment roll-outs. Developing plans for in-vehicle versions for both WeChat and DingTalk, the default instant massaging tools for personal and professional communications in China, is in line with the trend.
Chinese internet giants have been expanding aggressively to car-related technologies from electric cars to autonomous driving, and connected cars are one of the sectors that’s become highly competitive. In addition to Alibaba, Baidu has its DuerOS and Tecent just launched TAI Smart Car System this week.
Apart from in-house development, Alibaba also partnered with the world’s top automaker like BMW, Honda and Ford, helping them leverage new technologies of artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, the Internet of Things.
Most of the smart-car service providers only do a re-developing of the mobile apps in an attempt to duplicate the smartphone ecosystem for the automotive industry. But the car-targeted services need a custom design due to the huge interaction differences for smartphones and cars.