Amazon had a huge event in Seattle today, where it announced a slew of new Echo products, and also announced some new features for Alexa. Like the ability to call actual phone numbers, instead of just other Alexa accounts, with the Echo. Amazon also announced that Alexa will be hitting the road with BMW next year. While this is the first major automotive partnership for Alexa, it isn't the first. Alexa debuted in the Ford Fusion earlier this year, but it was only available in one model. While BMW is putting Alexa in all of its models, starting in 2018.
According to the press release, BMW and MINI owners will have access to thousands of Alexa skills that are already available. This includes some from Starbucks, Domino's, NPR, and many more. Amazon says that for most queries, customers will get a voice response as well as a visual card on the display in their vehicle. This is very similar to how the Google Assistant works with Android Auto in compatible vehicles today. Alexa Automotive's vice president Ned Curic stated that "we are excited to work with BMW to bring the Alexa experience to drivers. Voice is a big part of the future, especially in cars. Using your voice to enjoy content and interact with your car makes a great driving experience even better."
Those that have been using Alexa with their BMW vehicle for a while may be a bit confused, since Alexa already had a skill for BMW. And that is true. According to both Amazon and BMW Group, this new integration builds on that skill. So basically, instead of only being able to control your car – things like locking the doors, remote start, etc – from an Alexa device like the Echo, this integration now treats your vehicle like an actual Echo. So that everything you can do with the Echo in your living room, you can do in the car with Alexa. Making the Alexa experience come full circle. This integration will begin to roll out for BMW and MINI owners in the middle of 2018, and it will be available for all new models.