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Amazon’s Alexa takes to the road

Voice controlled virtual personal assistants have been on our smartphones for a while now and have started to turn up on home audio devices too. Now, our cars look set to be the next frontier for the technology.

So far, Apple and Android have been leading the voice assistant market, but Amazon is hoping to change the game by making its offering, Alexa, the first choice of the motor trade.

Amazon Alexa LogoAlexa is currently used in Amazon’s home speaker system, the Echo, but has been opened up for third parties to integrate the technology into other devices, including cars.

Alexa was one of the stars of CES 2017, the Las Vegas technology showcase. Several car manufacturers have announced Alexa integration, including Hyundai, Volkswagen, and Volvo, but Ford has taken it furthest.

The first stage in Ford’s rollout applies to its plug-in electric cars. Using Alexa with Amazon’s existing range of home audio, the Echo, Echo Dot, or Tap, owners can control a number of functions in their vehicle remotely. This includes locking and unlocking doors, starting and stopping the engine, and performing checks on the car’s battery levels, mileage, and charging status.

Later in 2017, Ford will add Alexa to its SYNC 3 equipped cars. Drivers will be able to access the technology by pressing a button on the steering wheel, and can then use all Alexa’s standard functions.

As well as playing music or audio books, and checking the news and weather, Alexa can use mapping to help you reach your destination, or find the nearest petrol station, coffee shop, or parking space. Users can also operate smart home devices remotely, so you could arrive home to find the heating on and the kettle just boiled.

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Meanwhile, technology company Logitech has announced the ZeroTouch, a dashboard mount for Android smartphones that allows drivers to interact with Alexa on the move. With ZeroTouch, drivers of both new and used cars can bring voice activated technology into their vehicles.

All Alexa’s functions will be available through ZeroTouch, from sending emails and text messages to playing games. The downside of the Zero Touch is its reliance on an internet connection, which is not always available while driving.

It remains to be seen whether deploying Alexa can make a difference to the cost of an insurance policy, though it can be argued that asking an assistant to turn the radio on is safer than taking hands off the wheel to do it yourself.

If you’re shopping for a new vehicle, check out the list of functions when you test drive a showroom car on trade plates to see if voice assisted technology is included. It looks set to be the next big thing.


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