Make Your Car Smart on the Cheap
Cars are getting smarter and smarter, with built-in features that can act as a DJ, a co-pilot, a personal assistant, and much more. With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto now available in a majority of cars, Amazon is working with automakers to integrate its voice-controlled Alexa AI technology into a growing number of vehicles.
Even if your new car doesn’t come with integrated Alexa Auto, you can still take advantage of the feature via Echo Auto, which is inexpensive, simple to set up, and movable from car to car. While many new cars offer cutting-edge built-in voice assistants and smartphone app integration, you often have to choose a trim level above the base to get the latest features, which can be expensive. Moreover, as technology improves rapidly, many used cars don’t have the latest features. Amazon Echo Auto offers a compelling workaround that’s worth considering.
What’s the Difference Between Amazon Alexa Auto and Echo Auto?
As far as features are concerned, Alexa Auto and Echo Auto are one and the same. The confusing part here is that Echo Auto is the name of the device Amazon sells to add Alexa Auto to your car. It’s essentially the equivalent of the Echo Dot – Amazon’s home Alexa device – for your vehicle, though the Echo Auto doesn’t have a speaker since it uses your car’s audio system. If you buy a car with integrated Alexa Auto, you don’t need an Echo Auto device.
How Do I Make Amazon Alexa Auto Work?
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work with your car as an extension of your iPhone or Android smartphone. Since Amazon doesn’t offer mobile phone service or a data plan, the Echo Auto connects to the Alexa app on your smartphone.
To add Alexa to your car, you can purchase an Echo Auto device on Amazon for $49.99, though there are sometimes discounts. If you buy the Echo Auto along with an Echo Dot, you’ll save $20. Echo Auto is a little black box, about the size of a Matchbox car, with eight far-field microphones that can pick up your voice over road noise, air conditioning, music, and conversation. It comes with a mount that attaches to most cars’ air vents and a power adapter that can be plugged into a USB port or cigarette lighter. For privacy, you can turn the Echo Auto’s microphones off with the push of a button.
If you’re willing to spend more, Amazon sells multiple automotive products with built-in Amazon Alexa, such as USB car chargers, Garmin GPS navigators, phone mounts, and dash cams. If you already plan to purchase one of these devices, you could search for one with integrated Alexa. This way, you won’t need the extraneous Echo Auto device, and you could save money by having multiple features available from one product rather than purchasing them all separately.
If you’re in the market for a new car, and you’re interested in Alexa Auto, you may not have to buy an Echo Auto or Alexa device at all. Amazon is currently working with several automakers to provide Alexa Auto as a built-in feature. Much like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, many cars already come with Alexa as an available feature. Some cars even have it as standard. However, Amazon says support and functionality vary by region, and some cars may require a subscription or a data or entertainment package to use the service.
What Can Amazon Alexa Auto Do?
There’s a good chance you’ve either used an Amazon Echo device or watched someone else use one. If not, perhaps you’re familiar with Google Home? If you’re an Apple user, you’re probably all too familiar with Siri, just like Microsoft users are familiar with Cortana and Samsung fans call on Bixby. All of these are voice-controlled virtual assistants that can execute a growing number of tasks.
Alexa Auto really isn’t any different from an Echo device you’d have in your home, though you may choose to rely on it for different tasks while driving than you use most often while at home. Echo Auto has the ability to stream audio from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, and Audible, among others.
The voice assistant can also provide directions, make phone calls, check the news, interface with your calendar, create to-do lists or grocery lists, and much more. You can shop on Amazon, check the weather, check the stock market, get the latest sports scores, or simply ask a random question. Alexa Auto will even let you drop in on your family by interfacing with your home Alex device while you’re away.
While all of the above features are helpful and convenient, Alexa Auto can take it to the next level by letting you control your smart home from your car. How about setting your home alarm system, locking your doors, or adjusting your thermostat? Did you forget to close your garage door or turn off a light or the pool filter? Do you wish you could turn off your sprinkler system when it starts raining? With Echo Auto and the right smart home devices, the possibilities are endless.
Which Cars Support Amazon Alexa Auto?
Amazon Echo Auto will work in most cars. Almost every car has a cigarette lighter for power. As long as you can connect the Echo Auto to the car’s audio system via an aux port or Bluetooth, which are common even in many older vehicles, you should be all set. However, there are always exceptions.
Amazon says Echo Auto isn’t compatible with all vehicles. Be sure to check the Amazon.com website to ensure your car and smartphone will support the technology.
Amazon’s website has a growing list of cars with integrated Alexa Auto. Currently, Amazon has partnered with Audi, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Lexus, Lincoln, Mini, and Toyota. Some vehicles from as early as the 2016 model year offered built-in Alexa.