Amazon just made it considerably easier for car companies to integrate Alexa Auto into their native infotainment systems. The tech and retail giant released an Alexa Auto software development kit (SDK) anyone can download for free on GitHub.
The long list of features bundled in the SDK includes media streaming from services like Audible, iHeartRadio, and, you guessed it, Amazon Music. Amazon also added core functions such as speech recognition and synthesis, smartphone device control, weather reports, notifications (for social media and email), and tens of thousands of custom skills the company hasn’t fully detailed yet. Users will also be able to search for local restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, hotels, and other businesses. They’ll also be able to request turn-by-turn directions to their chosen location. Finally, Alexa Auto includes the ability to make and receive phone calls.
These features promise to make driving safer and more convenient by eliminating distractions. For example, motorists who drive an Alexa-compatible car will be able to say “Alexa, turn on the ceiling fan and the kitchen lights” and come home to a well-lit, well-ventilated house. They’ll also be capable of finding the nearest taco joint, requesting a song by The Offspring, or making a to-do list, all without taking their hands off the steering wheel or their eyes off the road.
If some of those features sound familiar, it’s likely because Android Auto and Apple CarPlay perform roughly the same functions. Amazon’s announcement means Google and Apple will no longer have to settle for worrying about each other; they’ll need to fend off Amazon, too.
Some automakers chose not to wait for the SDK’s release to start integrating Alexa into their cars. BMW, Ford, Hyundai, and Toyota are among the companies already working with the technology. Toyota notably integrated Amazon’s cloud-based digital assistant into its new Entune 3.0 infotainment system, which is available on the 2018 Camry and the 2018 Sienna, among other models.
Anker and Garmin have followed this trend, too. The former sells an Alexa-compatible USB car charger that lets motorists make phone calls and stream music. The latter’s Garmin Speak takes the form of a windshield-mounted device that brings Alexa and all of its functions into the car. both are ways to bring older cars into the 21st century. Now that the SDK is out in the open, expect the list of Alexa-compatible cars and devices to grow considerably.