- Jeep Cherokee is offering a mobile feature in its new Latitude vehicle that lets drivers use voice commands to unlock car doors and start the engine, among other actions, according to a press release. Starting next month, buyers of 2018 model can have the vehicle equipped with a Tech Connect Package that has a skill for Alexa, Amazon's voice-activated digital assistant.
- FCA Uconnect, the mobile platform for the carmaker's Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram and Fiat brands, lets drivers use voice commands like "Alexa, ask Uconnect to start my Jeep Cherokee." Owners of Amazon Alexa devices, such as the Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Show, can also lock and unlock doors, send navigation instructions and monitor fuel and tire levels.
- Latitude buyers will also receive a free Echo Dot, a three-month subscription to the Amazon Music Unlimited Family Plan and a three-month membership to Audible.
FCA is among the carmakers that are expanding the voice-command features for their onboard information and entertainment systems to position them as more cutting edge, user-friendly and less distracting. A growing portion of the big-name automotive brands including Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota, Hyundai, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have added Alexa skills or a Google Home function to their vehicle systems as well.
What's interesting the Jeep Cherokee program for Latitude is that it comes with a free Amazon Echo Dot, suggesting the carmaker wants to ensure that customers are able to take advantage of what is implied are significant capabilities.
For companies like Amazon, integrating digital assistant tech into cars ensures more people are interacting with the artificial intelligence, making it smarter over time and also providing more data that can be applied to the e-commerce giant's various other areas of business. The Cherokee partnership also doubles as a promotion for its Echo Dot devices and services like Amazon Music, which offers streaming access to millions of songs. Amazon is the de facto leader in smart home speakers but Google is aggressively pursuing the space as well, so promotions like this help Amazon shore up its role.
Voice-command technology is likely to continue to evolve, especially as automotive brands are looking to build out their digital capabilities. This opens new windows of opportunity for other marketers to directly connect with users and provide services in places where they're often difficult to reach such as driving a car.
However, auto brands still need to invest more time and resources into audio- and voice-driven search, along with value-added interfaces and relevant ads, to maximize this emerging channel while also providing value to drivers.