Alexa Adds New Navigation Tool for Commuters
Amazon has added new abilities to the Alexa voice assistant designed to help commuters. The new features may encourage people to use the voice assistant in their car; something Amazon has been pushing for a while now.
To help people in their travels, Alexa gained a couple of new commands. Users could already ask about traffic to specific destinations and get directions. Now, they can ask Alexa to send that info to their phone and get a link that will start navigation in the navigation app on their phone. Tangentially related, as the weather often impacts travel plans. Amazon updated the weather alerts program so that users can make it proactive. If the user asks, “Alexa, tell me when there’s a severe weather alert,” the voice assistant will let them know about severe weather warnings in their area when they come out, without additional prompting. On a more metaphorical level of weather, the Alexa update also includes improved election news. Asking for an election update will prompt the voice assistant to share the latest headlines about polls, debates, and other aspects of the upcoming American elections.
The ability to send directions from a smart speaker to a phone seems like a small thing at first glance, but it is another aspect of Amazon’s bigger interest in boosting Alexa’s presence in vehicles. The company has been working on adding partners like Lamborghini and Rivian that are integrating Alexa into some of their models. Meanwhile, it recently began international sales of the Echo Auto device, which adds Alexa to cars where it’s not integrated. In case that doesn’t entice drivers, Alexa is also starting to handle paying for gas at 11,500 Exxon and Mobil gas stations.
Providing a navigation link between the home and the car also adds to Amazon’s apparent desire for people to think of Alexa as an omnipresent part of their lives. While the new feature adds a smart home element to the car, cars with Alexa can run smart home devices. The voice assistant can turn lights and security systems on or off remotely from vehicles, or even set a smart oven to preheat before they arrive. Amazon says there are hundreds of millions of Alexa-enabled devices out there, and it is pushing to make them all part of a shared ecosystem. If people become comfortable extending their use of Alexa from Echo smart speakers to their car and beyond the home, Amazon can achieve the kind of ubiquity for Alexa that it wants.