Alexa and Tmall Genie could enable car owners to remotely monitor their cars

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 23 Apr 2018

With advanced connectivity, car can become another smart environment like the office or the home. (Representational Image)

Automakers are pairing up with voice assistants like Alibaba’s Tmall Genie and Amazon’s Alexa to enable owners to control and monitor a number of functions of the vehicle using voice commands.

Daimler, Audi and Volvo have become the first automakers to add Alibaba’s smart voice assistant Tmall Genie to the range of smart devices compatible with their connected car apps.This means car owners will be able to use Tmall Genie to monitor their car’s fuel levels, mileage and the status of the engine and battery, as well as to control car doors, windows and air conditioning, from home via voice command.

Volvo plans to use the Tmall Genie service on its XC90, S90 and XC60 models. Daimler and Audi haven’t yet specified with which models the Tmall Genie service will work.

“Cars are an environment, alongside the home and the office, where individuals spend a significant amount of time, and which through connectivity can become an important part of life. Identifying how to serve car users with our smart home assistant Tmall Genie is one of our top priorities. We are thrilled to partner with distinguished auto brands like Daimler, Audi and Volvo Cars to drive the revolution of smart mobility in China,” said Lijuan Chen, head of Alibaba A.I. Labs, which created the Genie.

Unveiled on Monday ahead of the Beijing Auto Show, the partnerships mark the first move into the auto space by Alibaba’s A.I. Labs as it rolls out a series of Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives for industries spanning smart homes, education, entertainment, airlines and hotels. The Labs is Alibaba’s in-house research unit for developing artificial intelligence-powered consumer applications, such as Tmall Genie.

“Through this cooperation with Alibaba in connectivity, our focus is on human-centric innovations that provide our customers with a digital experience, both in and outside the vehicle, in order to meet their changing needs,” Hans Georg Engel, head of Mercedes‐Benz Research and Development China, said in a statement.

To further enhance the digital experience for Chinese consumers, Daimler plans to leverage geofencing technology—developed by Alibaba Cloud’s IoT division—to automatically turn on or off lighting, thermostats and other home appliances when they drive past a designated area near their homes, the company claims.

Similarly, the Labs is working to integrate its AI platform into vehicle operating systems, so users will be able to control Tmall Genie-compatible home appliances from their cars. According to Chen, with A.I. Labs’ voiceprint technology, the device will only execute commands when it is activated by the voice of authorized users.

Kia Motors and their UVO skill for Alexa

A similar initiative was also declared by Kia Motors, where owners of certain cars like Soul EV and K900 would be able to start and stop the engine or heat or cool the cars using simple voice commands from the comfort of their home. Additionally, with the UVO skill, the system also allows owners to lock doors, sound the horn and flash the lights and start and stop charging their plug-in or electric vehicle. The system works through an Amazon Alexa-based device and is compatible with only those vehicles that are compatible with UVO hardware. Kia has claimed that the UVO skill set-up could be easily done via the Alexa companion app.  

Last month, market research firm Counterpoint Insights forecast that the global connected car market would grow 270% by 2022, with more than 125 million connected passenger cars to be shipped between 2018 and 2022. The report pointed to fast-growing adoption in China as one of the key drivers.



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