Having made inroads into our homes to integrate itself with a plethora of smart-home devices, the all-pervading Amazon Alexa is now set to take over our cars. And, trust me, nobody is complaining!
BMW confirmed Wednesday that, indeed, Alexa will be integrated into BMW cars and Mini vehicles in 2018, to provide Artificial Intelligence (AI) support to consumers in the U.K., U.S., and Germany, to start with. The integration will involve embedded microphones for optimal speech recognition, while the “visual cards” will appear on the car’s infotainment display.
Speaking at an Amazon event in Seattle, on Thursday, a BMW executive said, “It’s a complete, comprehensive set of internet capabilities that is available inside your vehicle,”
By the way, this is not the first instance of a BMW-Amazon collaboration, having joined forces in 2016 for the BMW Connected app, enabling drivers to use their smartphone devices to operate useful functions such as monitoring the fuel tank, locking vehicle doors, activating climate control and much more.
“By making this step of integrating Alexa into our models from mid-2018, BMW and Mini will form a more intrinsic part of our customers’ digital lifestyles,” Dieter May, senior vice president of Digital Services at BMW, said in a statement. “Voice control first featured in BMW Group cars many years ago, and we are now enhancing its functionality by adding a digital ecosystem, which will open up all sorts of new possibilities that customers can access quickly, easily and safely from their car.”
The latest announcement is sure to give Amazon the platform and impetus to emerge as a potent competitor to Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto. While BMW has stayed away from Android Auto thus far, it does offer CarPlay on several of its models.
The Alexa integration will allow drivers to give voice commands to the Artificial Assistant to perform various tasks such as giving weather updates and directions, controlling music, making a call, interfacing with smart home products, and working with third-party apps like Starbucks, NPR, Jeopardy, and Campbell’s Kitchen, to name a few .
Unlike the BMW Connected, the new Alexa integration will allow users to avail the full range of the AI’s functionality on the car’s dashboard, eliminating the need for an app.
In addition to a robotic voice providing requested information over car speakers, not much different from the Amazon Echo, Alexa will also display information on the dashboard infotainment screen.
— Lance Ulanoff (@LanceUlanoff) September 27, 2017
BMW, it must be said, is not the only car manufacturer to partner with Amazon for Alexa integration. At this year’s CES in January, both Ford and Volkswagen announced their decision to partner with the retail giant to integrate the AI into their vehicles. As far as Ford is concerned, Alexa will work in unison with SYNC® 3, the company’s infotainment system.
Here are some of the responses the BMW-Amazon announcement has attracted.
— Sophie Curtis (@scurtsy) September 27, 2017
— CNET Smart Home (@CNETSmartHome) September 27, 2017
— Alex Hernandez (@0R0DRUIN) September 27, 2017