iSPACE concept car and intelligent network for cars
On the 16th of November, on the eve of the 15th Guangzhou International Auto Show, Guangzhou Auto (GAC) held a pre-show introduction of its strategic vision of the future, along the lines of “Intelligence and Enjoyment,” and it presented the new electric iSPACE concept car.
GAC and Tencent updated the progress from their cooperation in the field of intelligent network connection. Tencent has been developing technology to integrate the internet of things into cars, under the name “AI in car.” The iSpace concept car was developed by GAC but based on Tencent’s systems.
Lacking the autonomous features of many recent concept cars, the iSPACE concept intends to create a better lifestyle experience. Although, the concept lacks the style and beauty of many concept cars.
The iSPACE concept is designed to create a wraparound smart lifestyle experience using Tencent’s platform. The “AI in car” platform’s purported capabilities are security, content, big data, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence.
Private space in a crowded world
Designed to appeal to young people, this electric concept car was designed to be less of a car and more of a private room that is integrated into the internet. The concept “Car stops, life starts” central feature is the ability to transform the rear seat into a double bed to create a “third space” for young people. The idea of the third space has been explored in other concept cars.
While the search for privacy is a big concern in China for young people, I think this feature might have wide appeal for anyone who would like to sleep under the stars. Although, it is sure to raise some eyebrows and generate many a good joke.
The iSPACE concept car’s second defining feature is its aim to provide a fully immersive entertainment and interaction experience — equipped with Tencent’s “AI in Car,” the car can use a user portrait to provide personalised content such as its own branded music, reading material, broadcasts, and advertisements. These user profiles are also dynamic, being able to identify various travel scenarios from the daily commute, school run, dating, airport pickups, long-distance trips, or going shopping. Social media is integrated into the system to allow the car user to send and receive Wechat and QQ messages while driving.
AI in Car
While the iSPACE concept car is unlikely to make it to market, it is supposed to define the future of the products of GAC in the event it announces that it is linking the company’s ecosystem with intelligent networks and artificial intelligence. In a more clear move, Tencent and GAC announced that they are developing products together and the first products will reach the market in 2018. A number of future GAC models will be equipped with car-mounted IoT systems with similar intended functionality as the concept car.
The rise of the Chinese appliance
While the iSPACE concept car is unlikely to become a reality, the ideas behind it will become more commonplace. Although, this might be a double-edged sword. As someone who has been living in China, I find Chinese integration of digital and the real world very convenient.
Being able to pay using mobile payments, sharing contact details, receiving quick express delivery, and using shared bikes all seem great, but at the same time, having a smart TV that plays adverts before allowing you to access any menu and having adverts appear on desktops of computers might indicate a future where you might own a vehicle but not control its functionality.
This is not just a Chinese idea, this concept has been put forward by Intel. So, this idea is coming of age and is in the minds of automakers and internet companies.
Why it is important
One reason this is important is because GAC aims to have at least 20 new energy vehicles by 2020, which includes 7 that are electric/electrified. It already has a presence in 14 other countries and it plans to enter the North American market in 2019 — so, very soon you might be encountering its products.
In April of 2017, GAC laid a foundation stone in its own new energy park and it is investing 45 billion yuan ($6.78 billion), which is another large investment into new energy vehicles and modernization of its production capabilities.
Government policy is turning the Chinese automakers into Chinese electric automakers, so each investment of billions of yuan is mounting up and we don’t know what impact this will have on the global market because China does not intend to stay at home and make money only there if it can also make money globally.
Who is GAC?
GAC is one of China’s leading automakers, with a number of high-profile joint ventures. It is based out of Guangzhou, Guangdong, China, and is owned by Guangzhou Automobile Industry Group Co Ltd, which is a state-owned enterprise.
Who is Tencent?
Tencent Holdings Limited, a Shenzen-based internet “mega-corporation” conglomerate, is one of the world’s largest internet and technology companies. It is also the largest investment corporation in the world. Tencent recently surpassed Facebook’s valuation and was the first Asian technology firm to surpass a $500 billion valuation mark. Tencent also acquired 5% of Tesla earlier in 2017.
While just a concept, the idea of the internet of things getting integrated into our cars to provide us a seamless entertainment experience is starting to become a reality. Not because we want it, but because it will make huge amounts of money for some very big companies. This might be a new hell or a new heaven. Just as micro-transactions are transforming the incomes of large game developers, in-car services might provide a new and lucrative source of revenue.
We are seeing the development of multiple large electric + autonomous + internet of things collaborations around the world. These relationships might dominate the future as the business ecosystem around electric vehicles develops into maturity.
It is increasingly clear that China is making moves to become a global leader in technology and is linking itself into the global marketplace. It is hard to keep track of the many ways that China is investing into the future of business and society.