Chinese tech conglomerate Tencent unveiled a voice-operated version of its messaging app WeChat for use in vehicles in partnership with Chinese car maker Chang’an Automobile, as the competition for the next generation of smart vehicles intensifies.
The application will enable drivers to to give voice commands or use a button on the wheel to check unread messages, send new messages and make calls on WeChat. The first models equipped with this new technology are expected to become available by the end of the year.
The two companies announced at the Smart China Expo in Chongqing that the new interactive automobile version of WeChat will be available in models including the CS75 Plus. The motivation behind the integration of WeChat into automobiles is to reduce the safety hazard associated with using social media and smartphones while driving.
Prior to the release of voice-controlled WeChat, Tencent CEO Pony Ma said that his company also established a joint venture with Chang’an Automobiles to develop a connected car system that would also be open to other automakers. Here, Tencent is trying to leverage its competitive advantages in social technologies with its massive existing user base in WeChat to build the software structure for smart automobiles.
As the impending arrival and commercialization of autonomous vehicles edges closer to reality, the infotainment systems available to car occupants and drivers represent a lucrative opportunity for tech companies like Tencent. China’s Ministry of Public Security said that as of June 2019, the country had 340 million vehicles, 198 million of which are private cars.