Amazon's Alexa will soon do your bidding through your car infotainment console


On Thursday, Amazon released a developer kit to integrate Alexa's AI skills into car infotainment systems. Soon you could ask Alexa for directions, to make calls, stream songs, search for nearby restaurants or hotels — just like you do with devices, like the Echo, at home.

Except you don't need to plug your phone into your car, the car is the voice assistant. Amazon doesn't just want to compete with Google and Apple in your home. It's coming for your car, too. Amazon's Alexa voice assistant will soon be "Hey Alexa" ready through the car infotainment system — a territory Apple CarPlay and Android Auto have inhabited for years. 

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Top-selling items from Amazon Prime Day 2018 around the world
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Top-selling items from Amazon Prime Day 2018 around the world

United States: In the US, the Instant Pot 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi Use was a top seller, with 300,000 purchased.

Shoppers also bought 23andMe DNA Tests and LifeStraw Personal Water Filters.

They also bought a lot of Finish Dishwasher Tablets.

Spain: Spanish shoppers were focused on tech. One of the top-selling items was a SanDisk Ultra 64GB memory card.

Spanish shoppers also bought the Cecotec Conga Excellence 990 4 in 1 iTech 3.0 robot vacuum cleaner.

Singapore: In Singapore, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar was a top seller.

Play-Doh Shape and Learn Shape a Story was flying off the shelves, and shoppers were stocking up on Kleenex Ultra Soft Toilet Tissue.

Netherlands: Shoppers in the Netherlands were also buying a lot of tech. Two of the top-selling products were the Osmart ZigBee Smart Plug and the Philips Hue White Ambiance GU10 LED Spot.

They also bought a lot of SanDisk Micro SD cards.

Mexico: Shoppers in Mexico bought a ton of Ace Powder Laundry Detergent.

They also bought the Amazon Basics USB Lightning Cable.

Luxembourg: Shoppers in Luxembourg loved the Jamie Oliver Tefal pan.

They were also buying Brita Water Filters and Solar-lamp in Preserve Jar with USB connectors.

Japan: Laundry detergent was also popular in Japan, with shoppers buying Top Super Nanox Liquid Laundry Detergent with an extra-large refill.

They also bought a ton of SAVAS Whey Protein 100 in the cocoa flavor in Japan.

Italy: Finish Dishwasher Tabs All in 1 Max were a top seller in Italy.

The Braun Multi-grooming Kit Precision Trimmer 9-in-1 for beard styling and the Hoover Rechargeable Broom 2-in-1 Freedom also flew off the online shelves.

India: In India, many shoppers bought the Redmi Y2 Gold 32 GB smartphone.

Shoppers also bought Tata salt and the Mi 10000mAH Li Polymer Power Bank 2i.

Germany and Austria: Everyone was buying a PlayStation Plus Membership in Germany and Austria.

Shoppers also were filling their carts with the Jamie Oliver Tefal Panand Osmart ZigBee Smart Plugs.

France: PlayStation Plus Memberships were also a top seller in France.

French shoppers were all about tech on Prime Day, with other top sellers including the SanDisk Ultra 64GB memory card and the TP Link Wi-Fi-connected plug.

China: Health and beauty were a focus for shoppers in China, with Philips Sonicare Healthy White HX6730 Toothbrushes and Braun Digital Ear Thermometers flying off the online shelves.

Paul & Joe Beaute Moisturizing Foundation was another top seller in China.

Canada: Canada's top sellers were similar to the US', with the Instant Pot 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi Use and LifeStraw Personal Water Filters being two of the top sellers.

Shoppers in Canada also snagged many pairs of Bose's QuietComfort Noise Cancelling Headphones.

Belgium: A lot of shoppers in Belgium were buying SanDisk Ultra 128GB memory cards.

Shoppers also bought a ton of Osmart ZigBee Smart Plugs and Philips Hue light bulbs.

Australia: Australian shoppers were all about video games. The PlayStation 4 Pro 1TB Console with Bonus Fortnite Content and FIFA 18 for PlayStation 4 were two of the top sellers.

They also bought a lot of Philips Hue light bulbs.

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Developers can access the Github repository to build Alexa directly into vehicles. Although any developer can access the kit, it’s mainly intended for car manufacturers and companies that build dashboard systems. So when someone buys an Alexa-ready car it's available to connect to their Amazon-controlled digital life.

The Alexa in-vehicle integration sounds a lot like what Nuance's Dragon Drive automotive assistant has been building into cars for years. It doesn't use the Alexa AI, but the voice recognition company is working on the 2019 version of its car voice-enabled interface that's designed to act a lot like Amazon's Alexa system. It has a similar "Hello, Dragon" call to action or an option to keep the car assistant listening in the background. 

A Walker Sands Communications report on retail found more than 40 percent of consumers say they want more hands-free control in the car.

Nuance's system is platform agnostic meaning it's not tethered to only iOS or Android apps, which was a problem that plagued CarPlay at the beginning. (iOS 12, which is in public beta, will open up CarPlay to Android apps. Alexa connects to a variety of third-party apps on the Echo and it's likely to do the same in your car.) Its tech is already in 200 million cars like Mercedes, Toyota, Audi, BMW, GM, and others, but it wants to become more of an Alexa-like program for driver assistance and connect you to your home and other devices beyond the car. 

In a car demo this week, Nuance's Dragon pulled up gas stations (and gallon prices) on the route home, played Katy Perry songs from a streaming music service, and looked for coffee shops. It did all that through voice commands and tailored to the driver's preferences, which the system had learned over time. This all happened through the center console touchscreen in a Chrysler Pacifica minivan. 

Nuance's concept AI assistant will also offer gaze detection for a more connected experience where you could ask the voice assistant, "When does that store open?" just by looking in that direction. 

As the home assistant war wages on, looks like tech companies are taking the fight to the road, too.  

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