Alexa Automotive News Round Up – CES 2019
Lots of news came out of this year’s CES, including the continued advancement of voice assistant integration in the automobile. As one of the market leaders in voice assistant consumer adoption, Amazon and Alexa had a particularly strong showing. The company has consistently made efforts to increase its presence in vehicles, releasing the Alexa Auto Software Development Kit this year and encouraging automakers to provide skills that offer car interaction remotely. A separate venture from the connected car Alexa skills are the Alexa mobile app partnerships with auto manufacturers. The mobile applications offer a “built-in” solution for Audi, Ford, Lexus, Lincoln, SEAT, and Toyota where users can download a mobile app to access the solutions. Despite these successful efforts to include Alexa in vehicles, Amazon is still pushing for more representation in the car. Here is a round-up of the most significant automotive Alexa news that came out of CES 2019.
Telenav announced it will be integrating Amazon Alexa into its automotive navigation system offering. A connected car and location-based services provider, Telenav is known for the development of wireless Location Based Services (LBS) products since 1999. At CES 2019, Telenav announced its partnership with Amazon Alexa which will be integrated into Telenav’s in-car navigation systems. The integrations will be based on the Alexa Auto SDK, and a focus on LBS will be present. For example, Telenav will use its cloud software system to monitor traffic and let drivers known when they should leave. The navigation system will also be ready to begin as soon as the driver enters their car. Sal Dhanani, Telenav Co-President of the Automotive Business Unit commented:
Our native integration of the Alexa Auto SDK within the Telenav connected software system provides OEMs with a turnkey solution that significantly improves their customers’ overall experience, while minimizing the effort and risk of integration for the OEM. Telenav is not merely adding voice-recognition software to the car, it is making voice-based services like Alexa compatible with drivers’ needs and vehicle safety standards, ultimately expanding opportunities for consumers to have a single integrated voice service available at home, on mobile, and in the vehicle.
This partnership is a clear example of the benefit large companies like Amazon receive from the development of tools for third-party developers to use. There is no word yet as to when or how we will be seeing this integration. Telenav has partnerships with GM, Ford, Opel, FCA, Toyota, Daimler, and Lexus, and their website states it has “almost twenty million vehicles equipped with [their] navigation systems on the road, ten million of which are connected cars.”
Qualcomm showcased in-vehicle experiences for next-generation vehicles using Amazon Alexa. During the demonstration, Qualcomm showed the use of Amazon Music, Prime Video, Fire TV and Audible in-vehicle. The integration makes use of the Qualcomm Smart Audio Platform, which provided the basis of the Alexa Voice Service that launched in 2018. Alexa Voice Service allows devices with a microphone and speaker to integrate Alexa as a “built-in” feature. Users have access to Alexa skills and Alexa compatible smart home devices through AVS, with the support of APIs, hardware kits, software tools, and documentation.
Nakul Duggal, senior vice president of product management, Qualcomm, stated, “Leveraging Amazon’s natural language processing technology, along with services like Amazon Music, Prime Video, Fire TV and Audible, allows us to offer an exclusive, interactive in-car experience for both the drivers and passengers to leverage the latest innovations in a natural, intuitive way.” There is no word has to how or when we will be seeing this integration, and several outlets reported that the demonstration did not go according to plan. NPR released a transcript of the demonstration, pointing out that Alexa seemed to chime in when she should not have. A video of the occurrence has been included below. However, the partnership is still yet another win for Alexa as it works its way into the automotive infotainment world.
Qualcomm got a comment from Alexa: “not, that’s no true.” at CES News conference #CES2019 pic.twitter.com/IwEOpJuURT
— Lulu (@drlulujiang) January 7, 2019
HERE Technologies announced Amazon Alexa will integrate with HERE’s navigation and location services with Alexa coming pre-integrated within HERE Navigation On-Demand. HERE built the voice-first car navigation experience, On-Demand, with Alexa Auto tools and APIs. In addition, HERE provided Alexa with information from its location services platform. This gives Alexa the ability to allow users to search and locate points of interest, access live traffic information, and conduct seamless route planning in and outside of the car. CEO of HERE Technologies, Edzard Overbeek, commented, “Our work with Amazon will drive a truly differentiated and delightful user experience, from the home to the car, to where you want to go, and what you need to know.”
Ned Curic, VP of Alexa Auto at Amazon added, “We’re thrilled to be working with HERE to integrate Alexa with its in-vehicle navigation software. Because Alexa is integrated directly into the experience, automakers using HERE Navigation On-Demand can easily provide customers with an intuitive, voice-first experience in the car, and provide richer, more useful voice interactions at home and on the go.” The biggest news from this announcement is exactly what Curic pointed out: the partnership significantly decreases the development timeline of Alexa integration into vehicle infotainment services. HERE Navigation services have already been embedded in more than 100 million vehicles globally. Audi, BMW, Daimler, Intel, Bosch, Continental, and Pioneer are some of the company’s investors.
Amazon and HERE also plan to continue to work together in the future as a joint press release outlined another potential integration of Alexa and the HERE Open Location Platform (OLP). The HERE OLP is already used to collect live car sensor data with location context. That data is then turned into real-time incident and safety information such as traction loss or hard braking, which can be given to a vehicle’s embedded navigation system and Advanced Driver Assistant System (ADAS). If Alexa Auto were to be integrated with the HERE OLP, users would be able to ask queries like, “Alexa, where do I turn?” with a response from Alexa following along the line of, “turn directly after the [designated building].”
Plenty of Other Alexa Automotive News, Too
Those three partnerships are only some of the Alexa Auto news that came out of CES 2019, here is a list of all the other Alexa Auto announcements:
A Brief Echo Auto Update
In September 2018 Amazon announced a slew of Alexa-powered devices, including a microwave, wall clock, and the Echo Auto. Consumers have to wait to use the Echo Auto, however, as it is available by invitation only. Mashable reports that the Echo Auto finally began shipping to a “small” group of customers a few weeks ago. Over 1 million requests have come in to be added to the waitlist, and there is no word on when the device will be publicly available. VP of Alexa Auto, Ned Curic, stated: “demand is through the roof.”
The Echo Auto is not compatible with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Applications like Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, and NPR are all available on Alexa, and Apple Maps and Apple Music are said to be “coming soon.” Amazon has also created a support page for the Echo Auto, listing phones that will not be compatible. Models from ZTE, HTC, Huawei, and the LG Nexus 4 are included on that list. Despite the continual wait for the Echo Auto, there are plenty of other ways to include Alexa in your car.