Tencent’s messaging app WeChat now available for cars

Drivers will be able to operate the in-car app through voice commands or steering wheel buttons to check unread messages, send new messages, as well as make WeChat calls.

Popular Chinese messaging app WeChat, with a user base exceeding 1.1 billion, has unveiled a new version of the app specifically for automobiles. The in-car app will allow drivers to keep updated with messages even when they are driving.

Tencent's in-car WeChat platform is aimed at improving road safety by minimising the chance for drivers to stare at their phone screens while they are on the road, the company said.   

The new car-friendly app, which can be operated through voice control, will allow car drivers to operate the app through voice commands or the use of steering wheel buttons to check unread messages, send new messages, as well as make WeChat calls, technology giant Tencent said in a joint announcement with Chinese carmaker China Chang'an Automobile Group this week.

Chang'an will be the first automaker to equip the in-car app onto its vehicles. Some of Chang'an's car models, such as the CS75 Plus, will have a customised button installed onto their steering wheels that will be dedicated for WeChat's in-car app.

The Chinese company also claims to have secured partnership agreements with 21 automakers, including BMW and Mercedes-Benz, to roll out the connected in-car solution.

WeChat's car version will also integrate map navigation and voice broadcasting services. That is, when the user is told a location during a WeChat talk, the app will locate the specific address and ask whether to initiate navigation.

WeChat, whose active user base exceeds 1.1 billion, has become an indispensable part of many people's lives as an average of 45 billion messages are sent while 410 million video and audio calls are made on the platform every day, Tencent said in a note earlier this year.

All the major Chinese technology giants have tapped into the smart vehicle market. For years Baidu has spent big cash to develop its open-source autonomous vehicle technology platform -- the Apollo. Alibaba, meanwhile, has formed smart-car joint venture with other domestic car makers to push for the development of smart vehicles.

Huawei, which unveiled its HiCar solutions this month that allows users to pair Huawei phones with a car's infotainment system, has teamed with some high-profile car markers including Audi to develop self-driving technology.

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