Geely is helping change our relationship with our cars thanks to the clever new GKUI Geely smart ecosystem


“There are three things people do when in the car: listening, travelling and speaking. ECARX fulfils all your needs and creates a third living space” says an ECARX Product Manager. ECARX is the company behind Geely’s new smart ecosystem (GKUI), which debuted in the 2018 Bo Yue SUV. Set to be a key system in future Geely vehicles we take a look at what it does today and what it will do in the future.

GKUI Geely Smart Ecosystem builds on the 2016 Hello Boyue system developed in-house by Geely. ECARX is an independent Geely invested company developing smart and connected vehicle technologies. Founded in 2016 it now has over 1,100 employees spread across sites in China and Sweden. Based on Android it creates an ecosystem to bring solutions to form an independent platform.

“We did a lot of research into the 90s generation on what they want and now we are following what they told us. A lot of older car companies are very good at things like engines and so they make cars based on their traditions. We however are user orientated” says ECARX about Geely.

ECARX is at the cutting edge of taking Geely cars into the digital and ultimately self-driving future. They develop a digital cockpit system which merges infotainment, connectivity integration, and vehicle management together with big data and cloud platforms along with analysing user experience data to continuously improve GKUI.

Usability is a key feature of the ecosystem. In China, 860 million people are connected to the Internet by mobile devices. On average, they spend 4 hours a day on their phones and 1 hour driving. For anyone used to using a smart phone there should be zero learning involved in operating GKUI with familiar controls, menus and apps. The system though goes far beyond just a user interface and in the future will covers active safety with elements depending on the model such as automated parking, integrated dashcam, and front camera radar, along with passive safety such as 360° vision. The system works through an integration of software, hardware, and cloud based connectivity. Putting the power of the Internet into the car to offer a full range of services is the core concept of GKUI.

Along with usability, openness is also critical to the success of the ecosystem. GKUI is an open application platform which combined with the power of the Internet allows for endless collaborative possibilities. GKUI gives creators a user-friendly platform to create value-added applications. By collaborating with other, users are able to receive the best experience possible. For example, collaboration with Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent allows users to choose from AMAP, Baidu Maps, or Tencent Map for their navigation needs, collaboration with Ximalaya allows users to use streaming online radio for their listening pleasure, and collaboration with JD.com allows users to use JD Smart Home to access their home appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, lights, etc.

Typically with many existing car infotainment systems, they rarely if ever get updated and when they do, it is dependent on the dealer network. A key component of Geely’s Smart Ecosystem is that it incorporates over the air (OTA) updates for the human machine interface (HMI), apps and the OS (operating system). Already 336,899 vehicles employ GKUI. With Boyue drivers 79% of them are active users of the system and the average data usage per month is 827MB. Most Geely cars sold with the system include a monthly data usage allowance.

ECARX is creating systems for Geely Auto, Lynk & Co, and PROTON cars. By the end of 2018, nearly 20 models will feature GKUI. It would be easy to think that all this technology in the car could be distracting. Much of it, however, works using speech recognition through AI (artificial intelligence). The GKUI system currently understands Mandarin Chinese along with regional dialects and English. For Proton, the system adds Malaysian accented English.

The system uses a natural learning process and natural language understanding, meaning that its capability is always increasing as it learns from the individual and pooled data from other users. Voice control allows use of items such as navigation, climate control, opening and closing windows – the system understands hundreds of commands. It can even tell which window you want opened based on which seat your voice comes from.

The AI capability for GKUI is developing exponentially and is dependent on the amount of data for the deep learning process and this is part of what is getting updated with OTA. With Geely Auto setting a target of 1.58 million vehicles sold in 2018 and the majority of which will be equipped with GKUI, the amount of data points available for AI learning will increase exponentially in the future. Many people are scared of AI seeing it as a threat to them – this certainly in the case of GKUI is groundless. “AI is there to provide a better interaction experience between you and your car and the data available for AI learning is anonymized and protected” says ECARX.

Geely’s Smart Ecosystem makes the car part of the IoT (Internet of Things). As more connected devices join the IoT, more features will become available to make life more convenient. For example, through GKUI you will be able ask your car to check what is in your fridge and then if you are missing something either order it online or be directed to a shop on route back home.

The current GKUI system is still its first generation. ECARX expects the next generation to include features such as driver monitoring to ensure driving safety. Third generation GKUI will introduce more advanced features such as autonomous valet parking. The ultimate goal of the system as it evolves is to support the adoption of full autonomous driving.