Android Auto has been in our cars for a couple of years now, Google has been making it a bigger deal as of late, but what's the next step for technology in the car? The answer might just be Alexa and/or Google Assistant. We've spent the better part of this past week with Ford's Fusion Energi sedan, and it's one of a handful of vehicles in their fleet that have Alexa support already - the rest of their fleet will get it before the end of the year. This was announced back at CES last month in Las Vegas, we didn't get a chance to demo it there, but we have been spending the past week with it, and it's definitely promising. When you think about it, it doesn't seem like something you must have, but once you start using it, it's pretty incredible.
We've written up a piece about setting up Alexa and Ford's SYNC3 service together. It takes a bit of time (actually, it's only time consuming if you haven't set up the MyFord Mobile app), but it's pretty straightforward. Once you have them integrated you can use Alexa in the car as well as in your home to control your car. So while you're at home, you can ask Alexa to find out what the charge status is on your vehicle, this is particularly helpful for those with plug-in hybrids like the Fusion Energi, as Alexa will tell you the charge status, so you can see if you are close to being fully charged or not. You can also ask Alexa for your odometer reading. This is actually really helpful. If you use your car for work, you can write off mileage on your taxes, or get reimbursed from your boss, and not needing to run out to your car to check the odometer reading is really nice.
The skill that those in the northern part of the US will love, is the fact that Alexa can start your car. Now, I tried this from home, with the car parked over a mile away, and it was still able to start the car. It took a few minutes to do it, but it did start, which was pretty sweet. And it means you can tell Alexa to start your car when you're about to head out of the house in the morning to go to work, and step into a nice and warm car. Of course, you can also do simple things like asking Alexa to lock or unlock the car.
Now using Alexa from your home for your car is pretty cool, but you can also use her in the car. Just press the voice button on your steering wheel and you can ask her to do things like turn off the lights at home, or open the garage door. This is where investing in a smart home can definitely come in handy. Of course, you can also ask her things like what the score was in last night's game, or what the current news headlines are. Finally, you can have her start playing your most recent audio book from Audible. It's all really simple, and it means that you can keep your hands on the steering wheel and eyes on the road, which is why Alexa is so important.
Now while we've been using the Ford Fusion with Alexa built in, you can do these same things with the Google Assistant, which Hyundai has built into their Blue Link system. Now Hyundai's isn't actually out yet, but they were demoing it at CES 2017. It's pretty similar, but Google Assistant doesn't have as many integrations as Alexa just yet, but it will. One place where the Google Assistant excels is in queries. Since the Google Assistant has Google behind it, it means that you can ask it just about anything and it'll return an accurate answer. Whereas Alexa may not understand everything you ask.
Do we need Alexa or Google Assistant in our car? Probably not. But it is definitely a nice experience. Who thought that we would have Amazon or Google in our car, just a few years ago? Likely not many people, but it's in a good way, seeing as they aren't showing us ads why we are driving, which is a good thing. At least not yet.