Amazon’s Alexa is coming to all kinds of devices.
Bluetooth speakers, TVs, even light bulbs are getting the Alexa treatment these days. But Amazon is also targeting automakers with the technology.
The internet giant has partnered with a number of car companies to work with them on integrating the smart voice assistant into new vehicles.
In January, Ford became one of the first automakers in the US to begin rolling out the technology in select cars.
Owners of the Ford Focus Electric, Fusion Energi, and the C-MAX Energi can currently use Alexa while at home to perform certain vehicle functions.
For example, owners can use their Amazon Echo or Dot at home to do things like lock or start the car remotely by simply saying “Alexa, ask my FordMobile to lock my car,” or “Alexa, ask my FordMobile to start my car.”
This summer, Ford owners with SYNC 3 access will also be able to use Alexa in the car to do things like check the weather, play audiobooks, and even control smart home devices.
I recently had the chance to check out a 2017 Ford Fusion Energi, which is one of the vehicles that has the Alexa home-to-vehicle features enabled, and was pretty impressed with how useful the technology was.
Currently, there are six tasks you can ask Alexa to perform with the Fusion Energi.
You can control the locks, check the vehicle’s range (both electric and gas), remotely start and stop the vehicle, check the odometer, check the battery charge, and check the tire pressure. You can do all of this via a simple voice command to your at-home Amazon Echo.
There were several times I parked the vehicle and forget whether or not I had locked the doors, but instead of leaving my apartment and running down the street to check the vehicle, I simply asked Alexa to handle it. I also just enjoyed the novelty of asking Alexa to check the range of my car from bed before heading out.
But the most useful part of the home-to-vehicle integration was definitely using Alexa to start the car ahead of my morning commute so that by the time I got in it, it was nice and toasty.
These are all admittedly pretty simple tasks that Alexa can be used for at home, but they are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible with the technology.
Once Ford rolls out Alexa’s vehicle-to-home integration, owners will be able to use voice commands to control all of Alexa’s skills. For example, while driving, users can add items to shopping lists, listen to their news briefing, and search for nearby restaurants and stores. Users could even access the Starbucks Alexa skill while driving to order a cup of coffee on their way to work.
Drivers will also be able to control Alexa enabled smarthome devices, like a connected thermometer or smart lights, from their vehicle.
Ford’s adoption of Alexa is just the beginning of the company’s plans to connect its cars to the world around it.
As cities become smarter and cars become autonomous, it will become more important for vehicles to be connected to the world around them, Ken Washington, Ford’s vice president of research and advanced engineering, said at a press event in January at CES.
“This is the tip of the iceberg. It’s teaching us and it’s giving us the experience of how to interface two totally different ecosystems to create a great new experience,” Washington said.
“You can just imagine a future where this ability to connect by voice, or to connect Ford’s digital ecosystem with another ecosystem will be extremely important,” Washington said.
Ford, though, isn’t the only major automaker integrating Alexa into its vehicles.
Volkswagen announced in January that it plans to integrate Alexa into its new vehicles, and BMW and Hyundai have also said they will offer Alexa-enabled features in select cars.