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Honda in tie-up with internet giant

By Li Fusheng | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-04 07:14

Workers inspect a Honda Motor Co North America-bound Fit vehicle at the final inspection area at the company's Suzuka factory in Japan. [Photo/Agencies]

Japan's Honda Motor Co said it is partnering with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd to develop a smart and internet-connected system, one of the latest examples of closer cooperation between carmakers and tech companies to herald the age of smart mobility.

A Honda China representative said the carmaker is working with AutoNavi, the e-commerce giant's map business unit, to develop an on-board system allowing drivers to make reservations using maps and pay via Alibaba's payment tool Alipay.

Honda and AutoNavi have partnered since 2015 on car-navigation systems. Alipay had some 520 million users by the end of 2017, and 82 percent of them used the platform at least once in the year, according to the mobile payment giant's annual report.

Honda said the system, which is designed to deliver a better connected experience, will be unveiled soon, but it did not disclose whether the system would be available in cars sold globally or only in China, where its car sales are rocketing.

In the first 11 months of 2017, Honda and its two Chinese joint ventures sold 1.3 million cars, an increase of 116 percent year-on-year.

The Honda-Alibaba partnership comes as tech companies are playing a bigger role in the automotive sector, thanks to artificial intelligence, autonomous driving and other cutting-edge developments.

In December 2017, Honda announced a five-year joint research and development plan with China-based artificial intelligence startup Sense-Time Group to explore autonomous driving. The two also plan to expand robotics research and development.

In the same month, BMW AG and Alibaba announced that they would develop a range of "digitalized experiences for the car and home" for all new BMW models sold in China from the first half of 2018.

Their partnership came days after Ford Motor Co signed a deal with Alibaba to explore opportunities in internet-connected cars, artificial intelligence, mobile services and digital marketing.

Ford is also a founding member of the Apollo program, an autonomous driving platform initiated by Baidu Inc, China's largest search engine operator.

The platform has attracted more than 70 Chinese and international companies, including Ford and Daimler AG, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, Baidu said in its third quarter report released in October 2017.

"The tech world has many innovations to offer us, so it (the future of mobility) will be a marriage of technology companies and automakers," Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford told China Daily.

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