Amazon's family of Alexa-connected devices is ready for a road trip. The online retailer and technology company announced Thursday its Echo Auto, which brings Alexa and its voice controls to the car.
Some automakers offer Alexa voice control built-in to their infotainment systems, but for millions of drivers with older vehicles, Echo Auto turns any car into a rolling smart device. All it takes is a smartphone and any car with a radio. Amazon says the preferred method to hook up Echo Auto is via Bluetooth or an auxiliary jack, which many modern cars possess.
However, the device can also run through a third-party FM transmitter to connect and broadcast via an FM frequency. If that's not an option, a handy-dandy cassette tape adapter will also work.
Once connected, the device works like any other Amazon product running Alexa and drivers can issue commands hands-free while driving. Echo Auto can handle music selection, set reminders, check the driver's calendar for appointments, and includes the "drop-in" feature.
The latter connects to an Alexa-compatible device at home and Echo Auto will let drivers check in on friends or family, or perhaps let them know they've picked up dinner for later—phone calls are so 2008.
For the connectivity-driven drivers, Echo Auto also brings the smart home with it. Users can issue commands such as "open/close the garage door" and control their thermostat or lights directly from the car before they get home. Echo Auto also can be programmed with location-based routines to start when a driver leaves their workplace, for example.
To help avoid miscommunications, the device uses eight microphones specifically designed for in-car acoustics. Amazon says the microphones pick up voice commands and hear over car audio, road noise, and climate controls.
Those yearning for Alexa in the car can request an invitation to pre-order Echo Auto now.