Ford Motor Co. wants to join forces with Tencent to install WeChat in its cars in China, capitalizing on the popular mobile messaging app’s hands-free features to reach out to those who are glued to their precious smartphones.

David Huang, a senior engineer involved with Ford’s Asia Pacific-connected services, explained that there’s a demand from customers to “stay connected, stay informed and stay entertained all at the same time, even when driving.”

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Ford’s idea, he said, would be for drivers to sync their phones to the car’s software system to allow hands-free control of the app, making it safe and legal to use while driving. By teaming up with WeChat, China’s most popular messaging app, Ford could have an edge in the Chinese market over tech giants such as Google and Apple, which are likewise targeting automobiles.

Rivals including Daimler and Nissan Motor Co Ltd are also looking at ways to give drivers safe, hands-free access to mobile apps in China, home to the world’s largest number of smartphone users.

Cars are becoming a key battleground for technology industry giants as they seek to develop a market where drivers will be online while on the road. China could be on the front line of that battle as predominantly first-time car buyers in the country are also early adopters who understand more about technology than engine specifications.

See more from Reuters here.

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