One of numerous products announced at Amazon’s massive hardware event is a device called Echo Auto that brings Alexa into your car. Alexa integration is already available in different forms, but this is the first device from Amazon itself that adds the voice assistant to vehicles.
More than 15 global automakers, including General Motors, Hyundai, and Nissan, have added Alexa skills for their cars, according to Amazon. This allows drivers to do things like remotely start their cars, manage charging of an electric car, or access smart home functions from their vehicles. Others, including BMW, Ford, and Toyota/Lexus are integrating Alexa with their vehicles’ infotainment systems. The recently unveiled 2019 Audi e-tron electric SUV will get it as well, and will likely be the first of many Audi models with Alexa integration.
The Echo Auto uses the same eight-microphone array as the Echo Show, which Amazon claims is robust enough to hear voice commands above typical in-car noises like music or air conditioning fans. It uses a driver’s phone for an internet connection, via Bluetooth or Bluetooth LE. Echo Auto uses a new real-time operating system also shown on Amazon’s smart plug and microwave. Amazon promises that it will boot “within just a few seconds” of hitting the ignition. The device itself comes with a dashboard mount and is powered by a MicroUSB plug.
The Alexa Auto software the Echo Auto runs can interface with Apple Maps and Waze for navigation functions. Drivers can use Alexa to get directions or find nearby points of interest. Alexa Auto can also do things like add items to a driver’s shopping list or play audio books via voice command, as well as integrate with smart-home functions.
The Echo Auto will initially be available at an introductory price of $25 for early users, but the price will eventually increase to $50. Alexa Auto functions are currently available by invitation only, and Amazon plans to begin shipping Echo Auto devices to invitees later this year.
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