You won’t be able to start your engine by talking to Alexa, but Amazon’s new platform for its assistant brings other things to your car or truck.
Voice assistants are beginning to change the way we control devices, thanks to how much you can do with your voice.
Whether you’re talking to Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, or Apple’s Siri (or even Samsung’s Bixby or Microsoft’s Cortana), you have options in the way you choose to control devices with the spoken word. Depending on the device in your life, that may mean using one of those choices to find out the weather, hear the news, play a song, make a grocery list, or even control part home.
In fact, if you decide to get a little more playful with your home and add smart components, such as an internet connected appliance or smart light bulbs, you can get that voice assistant to control these gadgets using your own words.
Controlling these devices is typically handled through a smart speaker or smart display, and that happens with your requests. You can also typically use your phone, and there are other devices that can trigger the assistant commands, as well, such as a pair of headphones or a network device.
But there’s one more coming, and you probably know it better than you think: your car.
The technology basically extends what an Alexa-enabled device can do, taking the Amazon Alexa app on a phone and bringing support to a vehicle, be it a car, a van, or a truck, though we doubt motorbikes are part of the action here.
It’s coming in the Echo Auto, a little box you’ll plug into your car’s 12V power outlet or USB port that features eight microphones designed to deal with the complex acoustics found inside a car, overcoming the engine, noise from the road, the sound of the air conditioner or fan, and even some of the music you might be playing. Alexa onboard and inside your car is essentially talking to your phone, and can therefore talk to your car’s Bluetooth, or even through a standard 3.5mm port if you use that, and will be able to do much of what Alexa can do in the home, but with the car.
That means if you want to play a certain station on your music service, you can ask Alexa to do that, and if you want to hear the news, you can ask Alexa to read that to you. Alexa can also manage your calendar, talk like Darth Vader, and if you feel like ordering a delivery for home on the drive back home, you should be able to do it from your voice using Alexa inside the car.
Thanks to the Alexa integration with smart home devices such as lights and appliances, you should be able to use Echo Auto to control those devices when you’re out and about.
Doing this will require a compatible smartphone, but good news, because that’s most phones from the past few years. Older devices such as the iPhone 3G through to the 5C won’t work with the Echo Auto, nor will select cars, including a 2014 model of the Honda CRV, a 2010 Mazda 3, a 2015 Toyota Camry, a 2017 Toyota Corolla, or a 2019 Volkswagen Polo. Amazon has the full list of which phones and cars won’t play nicely with the Echo Auto, though the number isn’t large, and the same can be said of the price for the Echo Auto, too.
Locally, Amazon has said the Echo Auto will cost $79 from Amazon’s online store, with availability from June 10. Retailers will also see release of the Echo Auto, though unsurprisingly it doesn’t come with a phone, and doesn’t work without one, so make sure you have one with you as you drive if you intend to use the Echo Auto.