By on January 20, 2017

Amazon Alexa ford center

Amazon’s Echo is a voice-operated smart device for your residence that, despite being notably gimmicky, has become increasingly popular with geeky homeowners. You can ask it for the weather, to read you a book, request a certain song, buy things for you online, adjust the thermostat, dim the lights, or schedule your calendar. My father has one and, because the device represents itself through a pleasant-sounding female voice calling itself Alexa, my mother refers to it as “his second wife.”

Soon, Alexa and the associated Echo technology will be available on Ford, Volkswagen, Hyundai, and BMW branded automobiles. The new feature should offer a catalog of in-car commands and can be set-up to work in tandem with a home device to do things like flip on the the lights prior to pulling into the driveway. While this might not drastically enhance your quality of living, it will feel incredibly futuristic for about two weeks.

While the other automakers are introducing Alexa through application networks synced through a driver’s smartphone, Automotive News says VW plans to have the technology integrated into the car directly and won’t require a second device. That removes set-up headaches and offers additional functionality between the home and device, which could theoretically unlock car doors or remind you that you’ll need to get gas soon.

However, Ford claims smartphone users will see the same broad functionality when Alexa is implemented in its vehicles. Using the Amazon Echo or Dot at home, owners can make requests like “Alexa, ask my FordMobile to start my car,” or “Alexa, ask my FordMobile to check my fuel range.”

Using artificial intelligence, Amazon’s system is intended to become progressively familiar with users’ preferences, too. This means the car should learn the routes you like to take and use it to help better curate its navigation choices. Of course, the biggest benefit — outside of being able to show it off — is the added safety provided by not having to interact with fiddly touch-controls as often while driving.

“Volkswagen and Amazon share a common vision around voice as the future, it’s a safe and natural way for us to interact with the vehicle,” said John Scumniotales, general manager for Amazon Alexa Automotive.

As far as when the devices will start appearing in Volkswagen’s cars, the company hasn’t said and is referring to the technology as being “under development.” That said, it’s unlikely you’ll have to wait too long. Ford has stated that Alexa should start becoming available on some SYNC3-equipped vehicles this summer and Hyundai already has the technology available on its Blue Link connected cars.

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

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27 Comments on “Amazon’s ‘Alexa’ is the Automotive Life Partner You’ve Apparently Been Missing...”

  • avatar

    Bought a Dot for my wife for Christmas. So far, I use it more than anybody else does. Gimmicky? Probably. But I like asking for the weather as I’m getting breakfast made and then playing some music while I eat. We’re looking to buy some integration units to control some of the lights in the house and are actively looking for a means of activating our garage from a Dot. Do I need this in my car? I don’t know…but I guarantee my 10-year old daughter would be digging turning on the lights before we get home, if nothing else than to mess with our dog’s mind.

  • avatar

    the sensible thing would be to have a dock in your car that mirrors your phone onto a car’s display for navigation, weather, real-time traffic, etc.

    but that makes nobody much money.

    • 0 avatar

      or maybe turn this sh*t off and drive your car.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      ummm, so Apple Car Play / Android Auto that is currently available from pretty much everyone? My wife’s fairly basic Santa Fe has it and I wish my truck was a 2016…I’d have sprung for sync3 but the 2015 had my Ford touch which I would have paid 10 cents for. But when I was shopping 6 months ago for the Hyundai nearly everyone had it available and most offered it on trims other than the top ones.

  • avatar

    One of the catches with these products is that they are listening all the time. Right now, there is a legal dispute about whether information captured by Amazon Echo can be used against a defendant in a criminal trial. People complain about loss of privacy in our connected world. This is paying to give it away.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t like the idea of an always-listening technology that has the ability to spy on me, but we’ve all had one in our pockets for years. It’s just a microphone and a small computer that connects to the internet–just like your phone, your laptop, your tablet, your game console, etc.
      In fact, not only can you be listened to and watched, your location can be tracked via your phone’s GPS and/or your car’s GPS. If you want privacy, put all of your electronics in a Faraday cage and get an old car without GPS.
      We all traded privacy for convenience a long time ago.

    • 0 avatar

      Well sort of. I’ve follow a lot of security researchers who have monitored the Echo. It doesn’t send anything to Amazon unless it is triggered by the keyword. It doesn’t save anything on board either.

      So true, it is always listening. But it is only listening for its keyword and ignores everything else.

      I’m as paranoid as they come and I trust it. I’ve monitored my network with Wireshark and observed the traffic patterns coming out of the my Echo. It doesn’t talk much to Amazon unless I ask it to.

  • avatar

    There are a couple of local radio personalities who love to say things like “Alexa, turn off the lights” during their broadcasts, knowing it drives Echo owners crazy. Or they’ll ask Alexa to play a really annoying song.

    This could get out of hand if Amazon gets hooked into some of the more essential driving functions.

    • 0 avatar

      Alexa. Play Barry Manilow.

    • 0 avatar

      It was suggested you could make a commercial hack to buy stuff being advertised.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      That should be an easy fix. Apple and Google both build a voice model. On both the Androids and iPhones I’ve owned my voice would activate it but my kids would not, try as they might.

      On my iPhone I have the always listening off though because the steering wheel can activate Siri. With my Nexus this wasn’t the case but some makes will trigger ok google with the button.

  • avatar

    I think you should check the alexa vs google voice microphone home appliance reviews… there’s no way you’d take amazon

    also amazon has two goals:

    1. sell you Prime
    2. sell you stuff of amazon’s store

    So why do you want this in a car?

    I get the argument that google also has downsides but its a 2 party race… or you can ignore this crap and not buy it.

    • 0 avatar

      I suspect a big part of this is that Amazon doesn’t have a horse in the smartphone game, so Alexa can be smartphone-agnostic. Google and Apple have a vested interest in selling more devices.

      The technology is still improving quickly, so it’ll get better in the coming years, regardless of who you buy it from.

  • avatar

    I got a Echo for my room as a birthday present. I love it because not only can I listen to radio stations that play music that is never broadcast in my area (Modern alternative rock) I don’t have to fiddle with my 11 year old iDock and ajust the radio antenna above my bed and the wiring connecting it.

    My only downside is my Echo does not have a aux cord so, when I want to play something from my phone, I have to go back to the archaic iDock that soon, I’m going to have to take apart and clean the 30 pin connector.

  • avatar

    The problem for Alexa is the foundation difference. Google built theirs based on inference and NOT commands. So with Google Home you just talk naturally and say what you want. Wife can say it one way and I a completely different way and get the same result.

    We have had the Echo since it was launched and now have several of the Google Homes. We keep the Echo in the kitchen and then Google Homes in our bedroom and then the kids have their in their bedrooms.

    My fav feature right now is the ability to stay warm under the covers and control the TV. Just started working last week without me adding a skill or anything.

    Actually wife discoverd when watching a movie and kid walked into our room. Not sure if she was joking as she now does in situation that Google Home is NOT available. So like sitting at a traffic light she will say “hey google change light green”. She said “hey google pause” and the movie paused. When kid left she said “hey google rewind” and it went back some set amount.

    The Echo is a great piece of technology but the Google Home is just different as it seems to have more of a brain inside.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      Well, Google Home is powered by Google, while Alexa is powered by Bing. So yeah, that’s a big advantage for Google Home. However, Alexa works with just about all home automation products and hubs. Google Home doesn’t even come close. Since I have a smart home, Alexa was the obvious choice. In the future, I suspect that will change.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Driver: “Alexa, Turn on the rear wipers, and play ‘With a Little Luck.”

    What Alexa heard: “Steer my car into the next oncoming truck.”

  • avatar

    Car manufacturers don’t want Google or Apple in their cars, but they are ok with Amazon. Maybe it’s setup up like AA or ACP, but still I’m a bit surprised.

  • avatar

    The Parlotones! Excellent band, love them.

  • avatar

    As someone who was previously involved in a subcontractor for Amazon, watching the condition of the managers who worked for Amazon and the fact that Amazon’s logistics kept repeatedly changing the terms of our partnership swore me off of buying anything from them for the rest of my life.

    Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon are all untrustworthy. But Amazon is a wealthy autistic child of a company that thrives to squeeze their business partners and employees for all they’re worth and then some so they can throw money at whatever idea they have this quarter, good or bad.

    Hopefully, this is another flavor-of-the-month thing supported via app like Aha Radio or Spotify integration (Bluetooth audio). I don’t want anything from Amazon having control over my car and it’s good that only one company, America’s favorite automaker, Volkswagen wants Echo permanently implemented in their cars.

    • 0 avatar

      This idea will stick. Voice commands for household lights and devices is en vogue for now. But I think this is the bridging technology to finally make voice interaction with computers practical. For better or worse, in the next couple years, I think it will be more like old Star Trek episodes: Computer, tell me about….
      It has myriad applications for driving and might replace the abysmal nav/entertainment systems that exist in many cars. Personally, I hate the systems that are in my Ford and my Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      “Amazon is a wealthy autistic child of a company that thrives to squeeze their business partners and employees for all they’re worth and then some so they can throw money at whatever idea they have this quarter, good or bad.”

      So basically Wal Mart, but immune from being targeted by those targeting WalMart because they are a cool, left leaning, big tech company instead of an old school retail giant.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      You know, at least Microsoft and Apple’s business model just involves selling me hardware and software. Yes there is targeted advertising but I can mostly kill it with little effect on my user experience. The others not so much. I’m pretty well done with Google. I currently use an iPhone and a mac, but I eagerly await the Surface Phone. I’m pretty sure that and a surface pro will be in my future unless Apple gets off the “get rid of all the ports and mag safe power supply” game. There is not an Android anything in my future.

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