Alexa is about to hit the road. Amazon and BMW announced this week that the voice-control assistant will go along for the ride on BMW and MINI vehicles in the U.S., U.K. and Germany by the middle of next year.
Passengers will be able to get directions, place calls, play music or Audible content, control smart homes and do myriad other things, according to the press release. Voice responses will be paired with messages on the vehicles’ displays. Third-party developers include Starbucks, NPR and TED Talks.
Alexa, BMW Deal
“By making this step and integrating Alexa into our models from 2018, BMW and MINI will form a more intrinsic part of our customers’ digital lifestyles,” remarked Dieter May, Senior Vice President Digital Services and Business Models at the BMW Group in a press release. “Voice control first featured in BMW Group cars many years ago, and we are now enhancing its functionality by adding a digital ecosystem, which will open up all sorts of new possibilities that customers can access quickly, easily and safely from their car.”
Automobiles are one of the most competitive areas in telecommunications. There are two areas that have gained the attention of vendors and carriers: Autonomous vehicles – with their extraordinarily exacting communications requirements — and in-vehicle communications services.
Fully autonomous vehicles are a goal, but people will continue driving their cars for a very long time into the future. The use of a voice interface appears to be a good safety step, since the proliferation of navigation, entertainment and other services raises the potential for distracted driving.
Another issue related to the sudden focus on vehicles is how to handle all the data that will be produced. Last month, DENSO, Ericsson, Intel, NTT, NTT DOCOMO, Toyota InfoTechnology Center and Toyota formed The Automotive Edge Computing Consortium. More than 10 exabytes of data per month will be exchanged between vehicles and the cloud, the companies said. That is about 10,000 times the current volume.
Voice continues to emerge as a potential user interface outside the car as well. In May, DISH announced that owners of the Hopper or Wally and either an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot or Tap can control programming via Alexa.