Alibaba Cloud has signed a memorandum of understanding to host Ford Motor-owned Autonomic’s cloud-based platform for connected cars to China, a market where consumer demand for internet-enabled vehicles is surpassing even considerations about pricing and engine performance.
Autonomic’s Transportation Mobility Cloud, an open platform that allows connected cars and city infrastructure to “talk” to each other, will run on Alibaba Cloud’s network in China, the two companies said Tuesday. The launch marks the entry of Autonomic, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford Smart Mobility, into China. The companies also agreed to explore additional opportunities in the transportation and mobility sectors.
The TMC platform will enable stakeholders from automakers and public-transit operators to large-scale fleet operators and software developers to improve and deliver new connectivity and driving experiences to Chinese consumers. For example, TMC could provide standardized data and infrastructure for developers to build applications for connected vehicles, such as trip planning for drivers, fleet management for ride-hailing businesses or digital services self-driving cars.
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“Alibaba Cloud and Autonomic share the same vision of redefining the future of vehicle connectivity through technology,” said Alibaba Cloud President Simon Hu. “With our new collaboration, we will be able to empower the transportation ecosystem and ultimately benefit the end users.”
TMC is positioned to help automakers and other players in the transportation ecosystem meet growing demand for connected vehicles and mobility services in China, one of the fastest-growing mobility markets in the world, Autonomic co-founder and CEO Gavin Sherry said.
“Through this partnership with Alibaba Cloud, we will accelerate our vision of creating the largest connected vehicle offering globally, while powering smart cities and vehicle connectivity in China,” he said.
China’s connected-car sector is on track to reach $5.93 billion in revenues this year, climbing to $10.87 billion by 2022, according to data aggregator Statistica. Although that number is well behind the U.S., with $12.92 billion in revenues expected this year, the Chinese government said it plans to be a “car superpower,” with the development of connected cars and electric vehicles at the center of that strategy. The current market penetration in China is at 6%, with expectations they will account for 18.1% in 2022, according to Statistica.
Carmakers across the globe have been moving to capitalize on the overall trend toward internet-enabled vehicles, but the challenge is making it possible for them to connect with each other regardless of manufacturer or platform. That’s where TMC comes in, said Sherry.
“At present, the innovation required for the emerging transportation of the future is restricted by complex technology and disconnected communication between automotive companies,” he said. “The TMC streamlines this process by establishing a standard language, with which different companies and developers are able to contribute to the improvement of autonomous and connected vehicle services.”
“Autonomic’s TMC paves the way for all automakers, in addition to Ford, and developers to build the connected vehicle ecosystem of the future,” Sherry said.
Last December, Ford and Alibaba signed a letter of intent to work together in a number of areas, including mobility services, connectivity, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and digital marketing, in the Chinese market. In March, they partnered on an auto vending machine that offers three-day test-drives to potential car buyers in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.
As part of the agreement announced on Tuesday, Alibaba Cloud and Autonomic said they would explore additional opportunities in the transportation and mobility sectors, “with the ultimate goal of creating a safer, more efficient and sustainable transportation ecosystem in China.”