More Automakers Clamoring For Amazon Alexa

As demand for connectivity in vehicles grows, automakers are clamoring to put Amazon Alexa behind the wheel — or at least in the passenger seat, CNBC reported on Tuesday (Dec. 24).

Demand for voice-activated technology is “through the roof” as 2020 rings in, according to Ned Curic, vice president of Alexa Auto.

“Two and a half years ago, we had nothing,” he told the network last week, following a tour of Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. “We’re much further than I thought we would be. I’m quite pleased with the speed we were able to build and deploy.”

Amazon is looking to jump on drivers’ increased desire for connectivity in cars and wants to develop a smooth exchange between Alexa at home and in automobiles. At the same time, automakers are working to improve the quality of voice recognition in cars.

Automakers and Amazon teamed up in 2016 to start collaborating, launching remote vehicle start with Alexa. The partnership expanded to put Alexa directly into cars to control some functions. Amazon also rolled out in-car Echo Auto, an Alexa-enabled aftermarket device.

Ten carmakers have already signed on with Amazon and more are expected in 2020 and beyond as the functionality improves. 

Amazon is “essentially talking” with all major automakers on partnering in some form, according to Arianne Walker, Amazon chief evangelist of Alexa Auto.

“It’s really more of a matter of getting things lined up for the cars that are going to be released as opposed to any hesitation,” she said.

Amazon’s Fire TV streaming service could also come into play as an entertainment device for the backseat, said Curic, noting that the necessity is being evaluated since smartphones can already offer that type of service. 

“There is a lot of demand by automakers for having something like a Fire TV in a rear seat,” he said. “They still think it’s very important. It’s something we’re going to have to figure out. We’re doing lots of data analysis.”

General Motors is in the forefront of offering Alexa onboard in vehicles. Newer Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC vehicles are being outfitted in the first six months of 2020.

“This brings the best of two fantastic companies,” Santiago Chamorro, GM’s vice president of global connected services, told CNBC when plans were announced in September. “We have listened to our customers, and their insights are clear, they want to carry those ecosystems into their vehicles.”

The car is becoming more than just a way for customers to get from Point A to Point B. More of today’s consumers are looking to the car as a smart guide to parking or safe driving, as a way to interact with social media and, most importantly, as a way to shop.