If you find Alexa useful at home, doesn’t it make sense it will be useful inside the car, too? We guess that’s what they’re counting on with the Amazon Echo Auto, which brings the outfit’s virtual assistant right inside your ride.
No, it’s not a standalone Alexa speaker, so it won’t require a network connection or even play music on its own. Instead, the device merely serves as a bridge between the Alexa app on your phone and your car’s speakers, all while adding a powerful mic array to make sure your voice commands are heard clearly, regardless of all the ambient noise on the road.
The Amazon Echo Auto is a small device (smaller than a phone) designed to be placed anywhere on the dashboard. It has two buttons – an action button and a mic off button, so you can stop it from listening in when you want to talk yourself and don’t want to accidentally trigger the intelligent assistant. A light bar in front of the device lets you know that it’s running (you need to plug it in to a USB port or the lighter slot), while integrated Bluetooth and a 3.5mm audio slot allows it to connect to your car’s sound system in both wireless and tethered configurations.
It comes equipped with an eight-mic array with far-field technology, ensuring it can pick up your voice commands clearly every time. Amazon claims this mic setup should be powerful enough to be able to filter your voice through any noisy AC system, loud engine, and busy traffic on the road. And yes, it should be able to hear you through music playing on the stereo, too, as that’s a talent Alexa’s home speakers can manage (with smaller mic arrays, no less). We don’t know, however, how well it can hear with the top down on your convertible, so good luck with that.
The Amazon Echo Auto can do, pretty much, anything you get Alexa to do, making it a very helpful companion during commutes. From pulling up a playlist of your favorite tracks and playing audiobooks to listening to podcasts and getting news recaps, it should handle all your entertainment needs on the road. It also allows you to get a few extra things done while you’re driving, such as setting reminders, updating your calendar, or reviewing a to-do list all using voice commands. And yes, you get full access to Alexa’s roster of skills that were designed with drivers in mind, such as the ability to find cheap gas using GasBuddy, get roadside assistance with Nationwide, or find nearby parking through ParkWhiz.
According to Amazon, having the device in your car will trigger Alexa’s location-based routines, which you can use to have it execute a series of actions as soon as it detects you’re in a specific location. You can, for instance, have it open the garage door, turn on the lights at home, and get the AC running as soon as you’re near the house, which should make your arrival all that much smoother each time out.
Want one? The Amazon Echo Auto is available now.