At a company conference yesterday, Tencent Auto Intelligence (TAI)’s vice president Zhong Xuedan announced that it will launch voice-enabled WeChat services in its connected vehicle ecosystem this year, ifanr reported (in Chinese).

The planned features include only chat, calls, and GPS navigation for now. All aspects will be voice command-enabled, purportedly to reduce driver distraction and risk of accidents.

Using the TAI system, drivers will be able to hear WeChat messages read out loud to them and dictate responses, initiate conversations, and find contacts without taking their hands off the wheel. When receiving calls, drivers will also be able to accept or reject calls with voice commands. In addition, after receiving a GPS location pin from a WeChat friend, drivers will be able to easily launch directions to the place.

In the future, in the hardware department, Tencent also announced that a custom steering wheel will have a button that enables users to turn on WeChat while driving, or switch between different vehicle apps. In addition, using a Bluetooth-phone connection, the car’s WeChat system will be able to switch on and off as the driver enters and exits the vehicle.

As of publication, a WeChat representative had not yet responded to TechNode’s request for comment on the risk that in-car WeChat features pose by distracting drivers.

While the announcement to roll out the features this year is new, Tencent unveiled the concept of TAI last month, with the aim of connecting auto companies, developers, and consumers. According to its official website, the ecosystem has already partnered with major auto brands including Mercedes-Benz and BMW, as well as Chinese companies Nio, BYD, and GAC.

Bailey Hu is based in China’s hardware capital, Shenzhen. Her interests include local maker culture, grassroots innovation and how tech shapes society, as well as vice versa. More by Bailey Hu

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