Alibaba’s Cloud Computing Unit Inks Agreement With Oceanwide

Aliyun, the cloud computing unit of Chinese online retail giant Alibaba, has inked a framework agreement with Oceanwide Holdings. This is with regards to a smart city project for Wuhan City.

The inking of the deal comes in the wake of the Chinese online retailer confirming that it had entered the driverless car space and was already carrying out tests. In so doing Alibaba now joins other Chinese tech giants such as Tencent and Baidu. According to a spokesperson for Alibaba, the online retail giant intends to hire about 50 more autonomous car specialists for its artificial intelligence research lab.

Level 4 capability

Per sources road tests of self-driving vehicles are being conducted by Alibaba regularly and the online retailer has achieved progress to the extent that open road trials can now be carried out. The goal of Alibaba is to attain an autonomous capability of Level 4 – this is a level where vehicles can navigate their way around without requiring the assistance of human beings.

Chinese online search giant Baidu is also working towards the same level of capability. Last year in November the Ministry of Science and Technology in China picked Baidu as the country’s champion in the area of autonomous cars.

According to a McKinsey report which was released earlier in the week, China is expected to become the biggest market in the world for autonomous cars as well as mobility services. Globally this market will be worth over $500 billion by the year 2030. The report did not however say which firm in China was likely to be dominant in this field.

“It’s still too early to tell who will be the winners in the trillion yuan market. No one company will have all the pieces to deliver the solution,” Christopher Thomas, a partner at McKinsey, said.

Chief scientist

The research efforts of Alibaba in autonomous cars started last year in March when the online retailer recruited a chief scientist for its AI Labs. Alibaba’s ambition is to connect devices as well as manage urban traffic using artificial intelligence. According to Alibaba Cloud president, Simon Hu, the goal of the online retailer was to create a network consisting of ten billion connected devices in the next half a decade.

Towards achieving this goal Alibaba has inked a partnership with the largest auto maker in China, SAIC Motor, with a view to launching internet-connect vehicles which are powered by the in-car operating system of the online retailer known as AliOS.

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