China’s great leap forwardThe next revolutionary advance that will change everyday life will be a smart vehicle. The connected car that allows drivers and passengers seamless access to the Internet and interactivity with devices at home and other places is a new growth area in which automobile, technology and electronics companies have all been exploring. Local electronics giants Samsung and LG and automaker Hyundai have their eyes on the smart vehicle, in which both traditional manufacturers and Internet companies have a future stake.
The first connected vehicle to hit the market did not come from the familiar multinational players but from China. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and the country’s largest automaker SAIC Motor unveiled a sport utility vehicle called the Roewe RX5 under the SAIC brand and powered by Alibaba’s homegrown operating system YunOS. The operating system allows drivers to use voice commands to open and close windows, control navigation, remotely unlock the car or control the air-conditioning with a smartphone. Entertainment and other web-based services are all available in the car.
The first connected car surprised the world because of China’s fast and creative application of existing technologies. Internet connectivity to a vehicle does not require brand new technology. What was essential was a stable operating system. Apple and Google have all been working on ways to come up with an exclusive operating system and chips optimized for moving vehicles that are also safe from hacking. While they were dithering, Chinese companies made the first move in a bold way.
The connected car is a part of the Beijing initiative Internet Plus, championed by Premier Li Keqiang, to seek new economic growth by integrating digital and Internet technologies with traditional businesses. The initial success in smart vehicles suggests how fast China is evolving through Internet applications.
Big Korean companies have been deferring investment citing poor business conditions, especially in China. China has proven itself more vibrant and innovative, and it is driven by adventurous entrepreneurship. Korean companies may now have to fear creative standard-setting by Chinese companies. They’re not cheap manufacturers anymore.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 8, Page 30