Tiktok owner Bytedance is quietly developing an auto infotainment system that will allow users to navigate content on Douyin and news aggregator Jinri Toutiao, becoming the latest tech giant vying to enter the car connectivity market.

Why it matters: Bytedance’s move is expected to further enhance Douyin’s leadership as China’s most popular short video app in the competition for user time spent, but its potential to increase distracted driving risks could compel closer scrutiny.

Details: Bytedance is looking for employees in engineering design and business development to grow its car connectivity system team, Chinese media reported Monday citing people close to the matter.

  • A Bytedance spokeswoman told TechNode on Wednesday that it currently has a small team “exploring technical solutions” for its content services available to users in vehicles.
  • The number of job offerings for product design and business development will be fewer than 10, the report said citing a person close to the company.
  • The Beijing-based company transferred around 20 employees to research and development from the team working on Smartisan, a smartphone project acquired by Bytedance early last year.
  • The Chinese internet giant has reportedly been in talks with large local automakers including BMW manufacturing partner Great Wall Motors, Volvo owner Geely, and Dongfeng-backed infotainment solution provider Pateo.
  • A latecomer in China’s auto technology boom, Bytedance began investing last year in electric vehicle maker Li Auto, widely known as Lixiang.

Context: Chinese tech companies are pushing aggressively into car connectivity amid a rising demand from users for in-vehicle entertainment and real-time communication, as demands from driving ease with improved driver-assistance capabilities.

  • Banma, Alibaba’s car startup in partnership with China’s top automaker SAIC, last week announced that it completed restructuring with the appointment of a new joint chief executive Zhang Chunhui, formerly the head of Cainiao ET lab at Alibaba.
  • State-owned BAIC and China’s biggest electric vehicle maker BYD forged an alliance with Huawei. Both automakers said separately earlier this month that they have been in the final debugging stage for launching the telecommunication giant’s car connectivity system HiCar in their latest models.
  • Japanese automaker Honda on Monday said it has partnered with Tencent to enable a package of Tencent’s communication and content services, featuring a voice-operated version of WeChat available to drivers and passengers.

Jill Shen is Shanghai-based technology reporter. She covers Chinese mobility, autonomous vehicles, and electric cars. Connect with her via e-mail: jill.shen@technode.com or Twitter: @yushan_shen