Tencent Holdings said it was working on a voice-operated version of its popular WeChat social app for use in vehicles, a move that would extend the platform’s content and services to millions of drivers on the road.
“The pure voice version] without screen can guarantee people keep their eyes on the road, and not on smartphone screen for even one second,” Pony Ma Huateng, Tencent CEO, said at the Tencent Cloud Summit in Guangzhou on Wednesday, according to local media reports. “If [our pure voice] version comes successfully, it will be embedded into Internet of Vehicles and work in a very smart way.”
Tencent has not pushed its WeChat service in its original form for in-vehicle use out of safety concerns, he said. “We do not want our users to eye on screen and read WeChat message [when they drive]. There are potential risks if they do so.”
Some vehicles companies have developed and embedded WeChat in their in-vehicle infotainment systems, but Ma said these versions were not authorised by Tencent.
Technology companies and carmakers are competing for control of the in-vehicle infotainment system and content, betting that bored drivers and occupants would enable extend their commercial reach to the road.
Earlier this month, Tencent received its first licence to conduct open-road tests for its autonomous cars on designated areas in the southern coastal city of Shenzhen, where the company is headquartered.
Autonomous driving is one of the areas where China and the United States are competing for leadership, part of a broader contest for supremacy in the next generations of technology that is revolutionising the way people work, play and live.
Self-driving cars are increasingly seen as the holy grail of applied technology because they must be proven safe in unpredictable real-world conditions.