Alexa has found herself in a bunch of new places in the last two years — TVs, glasses, light switches, mirrors and a bevy of other smart products. Another product Amazon’s assistant has begun to appear in is the one place where a hands-free assistant makes the most sense: in the car.
Ford, Volkswagen, BMW and Toyota have all announced plans to integrate Alexa into their infotainment systems. But if you don’t plan to buy a new car anytime soon, you’re not totally out of luck. Currently, there are plenty of ways to integrate Alexa into your daily commute right now, and none of them will break the bank like a new car.
There are a couple of ways customers can already access Alexa in the car — you could download an Alexa app, buy accessories or even a Moto Mod, or drive cars with the software built in. But the Echo Auto makes it far easier to integrate Alexa into any car, regardless of whether your automaker included it or not.
Echo Auto – The First Echo for your Car
Features of Echo Auto
- Connects to Alexa using your phone, is ready in seconds, and plays through your car speakers. Includes Echo Auto Dash Mount.
- With eight microphones and far-field technology, Echo Auto can hear you over music, A/C, and road noise.
- Use your voice to play music, check the news, open the garage door, find the nearest gas station, and more.
- Play Audible audiobooks, stream podcasts, or listen to Amazon Music, Apple Music (coming soon), Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, or NPR.
- Make calls, set reminders, add items to your shopping and to-do lists, or manage your calendar.
- With over 50,000 skills and counting, Alexa is always getting smarter. Skills are like apps and let you do more with Alexa.
- Set location-based routines—automated actions Alexa can start when you leave the office or get home.
- Ask for directions and Alexa connects to supported apps like Google Maps. Apple Maps and Waze support will be available later this year.
With Alexa built-in, customers can ask Alexa to play music, listen to audiobooks, hear the news, check the weather, control smart home devices, get directions, find parking, and more – all while they keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
With Alexa connected car skills, your customers can remotely control their vehicle from the comfort of their home. Just by asking Alexa, they can remotely lock or unlock their doors, start or stop the engine, find out how much fuel they have left, and more.
The Echo Auto features the same eight-mic array as the Echo Show, and can connect to your car through a 3.5mm aux jack, or by connecting over a smartphone’s existing Bluetooth setup (for cars that offer it). It comes with a dashboard mount and runs on a new real-time OS from Amazon. And for internet connectivity, it piggybacks onto your phone for a connection back to the cloud.
You’ll also be able to use your phone as a display for things like in-car navigation through services like Google Maps. As for power, the Echo Auto runs off an included cigarette lighter Micro USB cable — Amazon promises that it’ll boot within a few seconds of hitting ignition on your car.
“The car is a much more complicated audio environment,” Amazon SVP Dave Limp commented, noting issues like road noise, in-car entertainment, and air conditioning or heaters that it had to factor in when tuning the Echo Auto’s voice recognition features specifically for cars.
There are a ton of great reasons to have Alexa in the car. Here are the ones we’re using the most – you can obviously apply the actions to your own smart home and personal favourite apps.
- Turning on a house alarm if we forgot to do so as we left home.
- Turning the heating up when we’re driving home on a cold day.
- Settling an argument with a passenger on some inane trivia.
- Finding out the traffic for our route ahead.
- Playing animal sounds for the baby.
- Hearing the latest news headlines.
- Streaming internet radio.
- Playing games to pass the time on long drives.
- Turning the lights on at home if it’s getting dark.
- Getting a coffee brewing as we’re nearing home.
How much Data is Alexa Using?
Obviously, doing any of the above is going to eat some of your smartphone’s data plan. How much, exactly, depends on what you are doing with your Dot in the car. If you’re just asking questions and throwing in a few smart home commands then your data shouldn’t take too much of a hit – although be aware that any Echo device is always checking in with the Mother Ship, sending packets to and from the Amazon servers.
However, if you’re streaming music then the hit is obviously going to be a lot harder. There’s no exact science here but, IHeartRadio streaming for an Echo device is reportedly 384Kbps, which would mean about 173MB of data in an hour’s use. If you’re playing music from Amazon Music, reports claim that an Echo actually downloads the MP3 file, rather than streaming it – so that’s anywhere between 10 and 20MB of data per song.
So, however you plan on using Alexa in your car, make sure you have a cellular data plan in place to cover yourself.
Google Assistant in Cars
Your Google Assistant is now integrated into Android Auto. So whether you have a compatible car – or the Android Auto app – you can now have hands-free help while you drive. To get started, simply say “Ok Google” or long press the voice control button on your steering wheel in compatible cars.
What does your Google Assistant do – Get Help on the Go
NAVIGATE – Ask your Google Assistant to start your commute and help you find the things you need on the go, such as petrol pumps restaurants and shops.
PLAN YOUR DAY – With your permission, get help with things like your daily brief, the traffic to work and the latest news to be ready to start your day.
MANAGE TASKS – Read and reply to your messages, call your contacts and complete tasks, such as adding an item to your shopping list or setting reminders.
ENJOY ENTERTAINMENT – Play your songs, playlists, radio stations and podcasts with just your voice.
GET ANSWERS – Get answers on the things relevant for you when you drive, such as opening hours for shops and restaurants nearby. You can also get answers for the things you love, such as sports and entertainment.
Cars can get pretty noisy – especially with several passengers, windows down, and the tunes blaring — the device packs noise cancelling tech to ensure Assistant hears your commands over the din.
A big potential use of the assistant is for navigation, including both getting directions to your destination and getting information about current traffic or nearby gas stations, all totally hands-free so you can concentrate on driving. There’s also the option to use Assistant to play music of your choice or to tune into radio stations or play audiobooks or podcasts using your cellular data. And of course you can make calls and send messages, too.
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