Amazon Echo Auto, the first Echo device designed for use on the road, is now available in Canada as part of the online retailer’s expansion into several countries and could be a precursor of what automobiles will be equipped with in the future.
The tech gadget, which was first introduced in the United States in 2018, has the same capabilities as the Echo, providing information by commanding the computer-generated voice Alexa.
“Customers in Canada tell us they want to take Alexa with them everywhere they go, and we’re delighted to offer them an easy way to add Alexa to the car they already own” said Celine Lee, Alexa Canada Country Manager, in a media release on Wednesday. “With Echo Auto, they can enjoy the convenience of Alexa on the road, giving them the ability to ask to play music, make calls, continue their audiobook, manage their to do list and more – all just using their voice and keeping their hands on the wheel.”
Echo Auto features a custom-designed eight-microphone array which has been designed to account for challenging in-car acoustics, enabling Alexa to hear commands over music, air conditioning and ambient road noise. The three-inch long (7.62 centimetres) black box is powered by the car’s 12V outlet or integrated USB port and connects to the stereo system through an audio jack or Bluetooth. Echo Auto connects to Alexa through the Alexa app on iOS and Android smartphones and uses existing phone contract to access a range of Alexa features.
The product retails for $69.99 and is available at Amazon and Best Buy.
“The idea is like Jim Morrison famously saying, ‘Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel,’ but you can still access information whether you have a question or give a command,” Canadian technology expert Marc Saltzman told Automotive News Canada. “It’s the same principal as having a smart speaker at home, but now this is a hands-free assistant in the car.
“Eventually automakers are going to integrate support for Alexa in the vehicle itself. This is a bit of a stop-gap solution and an inexpensive one, so I can see it being appealing at under $70.”