Amazon Alexa is everywhere. At CES 2017, Amazon’s virtual assistant was featured in everything from refrigerators to cameras to even dancing robots, but the most interesting application for us came in the automotive space. Both Ford and Volkswagen announced Alexa connectivity at the colossal event, but as with most things in the car tech field, it didn’t stop there.
On Wednesday, September 27, BMW confirmed that Alexa will be coming to BMW and Mini vehicles in the U.S., U.K., and Germany for the 2018 model year. The system will integrate far-field microphones for superior speech recognition, and Alexa’s visual components will be displayed on the vehicle’s infotainment system. Much like with Amazon’s family of Echo speakers, Alexa will be able to fetch weather data, deliver current news, interface with smart home products, and work with various third-party programs through voice commands. We like the Jeopardy and Campbell’s Kitchen apps, personally.
“By making this step of integrating Alexa into our models from mid-2018, BMW and Mini will form a more intrinsic part of our customers’ digital lifestyles,” Dieter May, senior vice president of Digital Services at BMW, said in a statement. “Voice control first featured in BMW Group cars many years ago, and we are now enhancing its functionality by adding a digital ecosystem, which will open up all sorts of new possibilities that customers can access quickly, easily and safely from their car.”
The Alexa announcement is an interesting one because it gives Amazon much more credibility as a competitor to smartphone projection systems like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. BMW has resisted integrating Android Auto into its vehicles thus far, however, Apple CarPlay is currently offered on many 2017 BMW models (read the full list here).
Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time Amazon Alexa and BMW have joined forces. The two paired up for the BMW Connected app in 2016, which allowed drivers to lock vehicle doors, activate climate control, check the status of their windows, monitor their fuel tank, and more through their smartphone. Putting these skills directly inside the vehicle could be a game-changer for in-car voice command systems, and we can’t wait to see what else Alexa can do on four wheels.
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