Youzu Bets Self-Driving Cars Will Free Hands for Online Games

  • Company to unveil Web-enabled crossover in 2018 with partner
  • Model to target buyers between 18 and 35, executive says

After China’s largest search-engine provider and the owner of the country’s fastest growing online sports company made separate forays into self-driving cars in China, a mobile games developer has just joined the party.

QuickTake Driverless Cars

Youzu Interactive Co., whose top-grossing games include “Junior Three Kingdoms,” plans to partner an electric vehicle maker to produce a sport utility vehicle for sale in 2018. By investing in cars now, Youzu is paving its way toward providing the online games, videos and other content that occupants of increasingly autonomous vehicles will want in the future.

“There will be a day when humans are liberated from the hassle of driving to do other things,” Chen Fan, Youzu’s investment director, said in an interview. “Rather than wait until that day comes, we need to find a carmaker partner to establish a long-term relationship now.”

Internet companies are applying cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence to the auto industry, seeking to make cars that are connected devices and go beyond mere means of transportation. Besides search-engine provider Baidu Inc. and LeEco, which invests in everything from sports marketing to smart-TV manufacturing, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is working with SAIC Motor Corp. to introduce a connected car.

With long commutes and traffic jams, car occupants stuck in Chinese urban gridlock are prime captive targets for merchants seeking to market services and wares. Companies like Youzu are betting that the development of autonomous vehicles will also free the driver to seek a distraction of his or her choice.

The first model that Youzu helps develop will be sold under its partner’s brand and will be capable of traveling 300 kilometers (187 miles) between charges, Chen said. Youzu targets selling as many 5,000 crossovers in its first year for less than 300,000 yuan ($46,000) each. Chen declined to name the automaker, saying the company is close to finalizing the partnership.

Japanese electric-car startup GLM Co., in which Youzu has a 2.5 percent stake, also will supply technology for the crossover, Chen said. The target customers will be 18- to 35-years-olds desiring affordable products with good quality and cool functions, he said.

“We don’t aim to become China’s Tesla, but rather we’d like to become the Xiaomi of the auto industry,” said Chen, referring to the Chinese challenger to Apple Inc. in the world’s largest smartphone market.

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