Ford to Put Alexa in Cars Starting in 2017

At CES 2017 this past January, Ford announced that it would start offering vehicles integrated directly with Amazon’s popular Alexa voice assistant technology beginning at the end of the month. According to Don Butler, executive director for Ford Connected Vehicle & Services, “customers will be able to start their vehicles from home, and manage their smart home features while on the road – making life easier”.  Since 2016 when Ford originally announced its goal of connecting smart cars with smart homes, many consumers have become familiar with Amazon’s Alexa from highly popular products such as the Amazon Echo, Amazon Dot, and Amazon Tap.  However, this level of integration between automobiles and IoT technology is an industry-first.  Having Alexa integrated directly will allow drivers to interface is a whole new way with their vehicles.

The first phase of the planned Alexa integration, available at the end of January for Ford’s electric vehicles with MyFord Mobile technology only, will allow drivers to interact with their vehicle through home-to-car commands. These commands could include turning the vehicle on and off, as well as arming the vehicle’s security system and checking the status of fuel and mileage all from the comfort of your couch.

The second phase would be available to vehicles with Ford’s SYNC 3 technology sometime this summer and allow for car-to-home interaction. Therefore, drivers would have the ability to use their in-car Alexa to communicate with Alexa-enabled smart devices inside of their home via an Amazon Echo hub to provide an even more robust user experience. Drivers could turn house lights on or off, adjust their home’s thermostat, lock and unlock house doors, or even preheat their oven while still in transit.  In addition, a driver could also ask Alexa to read an audiobook, check the weather forecast, or locate a specific restaurant, for example, and then have that location added directly to their vehicle’s navigation system.  All of this while keeping their hands on the steering wheel.

Where voice-controlled home devices have been seen as more of a novelty and rather slow to catch on with the masses, there are very real safety benefits to be obtained from Ford adding this level of voice interaction into its automobile systems.  By interfacing with Alexa through voice commands, drivers can stay more focused on their driving and that decreases the likelihood of them getting into an accident.  You may even begin to see this type of voice interface become a new safety standard in vehicles in the not-so-distant future, much like seatbelts were once optional and then eventually became mandatory.

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