Amazon speeds up automotive offensive with offline Alexa, Fire TV for cars

Rivian R1T on a beach

Amazon accelerated its foray into the automotive industry by announcing offline control for Alexa, a burgeoning partnership with Lamborghini, and Fire TV for cars at CES 2020. The retailer-turned-tech giant is speeding past Apple and catching up to Alphabet in the race to quench the car world’s thirst for connectivity.

While dozens of models are compatible with Amazon Alexa, the mighty Lamborghini Huracan Evo is the first to integrate the software into its native infotainment system. It’s not merely an app; it’s the voice-recognition technology Lamborghini chose for its mid-engined, 200-mph supercar. Rivian, a Michigan-based startup focused on making electric off-roaders, will offer a similar level of integration in the upcoming R1T (pictured above) and R1S, but it will take the technology a step further by making some features available offline.

Both models reportedly boast up to 400 miles of driving range, and they’re capable of venturing far off the beaten path to places the internet hasn’t reached yet. Amazon — which owns an increasingly big stake in Rivian — made some functions available offline to ensure adventurers can continue to use Alexa even if their travels take them to remote parts of the globe, though it hasn’t revealed which ones. Offline control is part of the newest Alexa software development kit (SDK), so it’s reasonable to assume it will be available in other cars in the not-too-distant future.

Alexa will make Rivian’s off-roaders an extension of the home, and vice versa. For example, owners will be able to turn their living room lights on while driving via simple voice command, and they’ll be able to check on their gear by viewing footage from the cargo box-mounted camera on an Echo Show or a Fire TV.

Speaking of Fire TV, Amazon also announced plans to counter Tesla’s recently introduced Theater mode by making its entertainment services available in cars. BMW and Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles are the partners the retailer chose to roll out the feature, though both remained silent when asked by Digital Trends for more details about when Fire TV will be available, and how it will be integrated. What’s certain is that motorists will gain the ability to view the latest shows from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and more, and record shows with Fire TV Recast. They’ll be able to stream content using the car’s Wi-Fi or LTE connection, a mobile hot spot, or any other WAN-enabled device.

Amazon’s previous car-related announcement at CES 2020 streamlines the process of paying for gas. Starting in 2020, motorists who link their Amazon Pay account to their car will be able to keep their credit card in their wallet and simply say, “Alexa, pay for gas,” after pulling up to a pump. More than 11,500 Exxon and Mobil stations across the United States will add Alexa integration, and other companies could join the program later.

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