- Amazon this week added a feature to its Alexa mobile app that lets drivers use voice commands to play music, get directions and make calls, among other functions. In the next weeks, the app's "auto mode" will be available for Android and iOS devices in the U.S., Canada, Germany, France, India, Italy, Spain, U.K., Australia and New Zealand, according to a press release.
- Auto mode has four screens labeled "home," "navigate," "communicate" and "play" to handle different functions. The "home" screen provides one-touch access to the most frequently used features and responds to commands like "Alexa, continue playing my music."
- Amazon in the next few weeks will give U.S. customers a way to string together voice-powered features in Alexa-enabled vehicles and Echo Auto, the Bluetooth-enabled gadget introduced in 2018. The upgrades show how Amazon is looking to evolve Alexa's capabilities in areas where it has a less established foothold, including automotive.
With the introduction of "auto mode" in the Alexa mobile app, Amazon seeks to extend the usability of its voice-powered assistant outside of the home. The features are designed to minimize driver distractions with a simple interface that responds to voice commands and provides one-tap functions.
In addition to the "home" screen of favorite functions, the "navigate" screen stores favorite locations and lets users verbally request directions to destinations such as nearby businesses. The "communicate" screen lets users make hands-free calls and announcements. By saying, "Alexa, announce I am on my way home" or tapping on the screen, Alexa will notify family members automatically. The "play" screen shows current media playlists from any connected Alexa device and can be controlled with a voice command or screen tap.
With the new app features, Amazon could also carve out a piece of the growing market for in-car commerce. U.S. drivers spend about $212 billion during their commutes — a potential boon for marketers. Earlier this year, Amazon announced dozens of collaborations with carmakers, gas stations and providers of connected-car technology.
Amazon is the latest technology company to make a bigger push into vehicles. Google has offered similar voice-powered features with its Android Auto app, and recently added more features to Google Maps that give drivers more controls, like music playback, Android Police reported. With the introduction of iOS 14, the software that runs iPhones, Apple updated its CarPlay platform to offer features like keyless door locks. BMW was the first carmaker to adopt the new technology, Autoevolution reported.