Volvo Deploys First Commercial Trucks With Alexa Built-In
Volvo announced that Amazon’s Alexa will integrate directly into its newest line of commercial trucks in Europe, a first for the voice assistant. The deal marks another milestone in the acceptance of voice assistants in vehicles and a win for Amazon as the competition among voice assistant platforms in automobiles accelerates.
Alexa will perform a mix of communication, entertainment, and navigation tasks familiar to anyone who has used the voice assistant in their personal car when it is integrated into the trucks early next year. The new system builds on a recent tech update Volvo pushed out to the four truck models in the fall to boost safety and productivity. Integrating Alexa will expand the options for environmental and other controls as the native AI, and will even be able to remotely turn on or off any smart home devices from the truck.
“Volvo Trucks understands that voice technology is essential to create the optimal experience for drivers of their heavy-duty trucks and we’re excited that Alexa is the chosen voice service to deliver this,” Alexa Automotive vice president Ned Curic said in a statement. “Alexa can be a helpful friend on the road for Volvo truck drivers, keeping them connected, entertained and productive.”
The native integration gives Alexa an edge, but the trucking industry isn’t cut off from the overall vehicle voice assistant competition. For instance, Garmin released a new line of dēzl smart displays for trucks this past summer with its own voice assistant activated by OK, Garmin. To entice truckers, Garmin embedded details about popular truck routes, a load-to-dock guidance system, and the Truck and Trailer Services directory. It’s worth noting that Garmin had been hyping an in-car infotainment system with Alexa built-in a couple of years for the independent OK, Garmin voice assistant arrived. Garmin joining the Amazon-led Voice Interoperability Initiative (VII) in pursuit of connecting all for voice-capable devices suggests there could be some future overlap.
Volvo isn’t relying on Alexa for all of its vehicles, despite the truck deal. Volvo began adding Android Automotive to some of its vehicles last year, making Google Assistant the native voice assistant. And Google Assistant is going to loom even larger starting in 2023 as Groupe PSA, the umbrella company for Volvo and several other European car brands, has signed a deal with Google to integrate Android Automotive into its vehicles.
Shifting Up Gears
Still, Amazon has been aggressively pushing to get Alexa into more vehicles, especially in the last year or so. Amazon signed a major deal with General Motors. In fact, GM brand Buick is even running a commercial suggesting people look at its cars and think it’s called an Alexa. The number of companies building cars with Alexa within started growing more in January with Lamborghini and Rivian. Beyond direct integration, Amazon has been rapidly scaling up the international availability of the Echo Auto, which adds Alexa to cars where the voice assistant not integrated. Amazon started selling the device in India, France, Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom this year, expanding its language and geographic capacity at the same time.
Amazon recently revamped the whole Alexa platform for cars by creating a new Auto Mode for the Alexa app that is supposed to simplify using the voice assistant while driving. Amazon also released the Alexa Auto SDK 3.0 platform with an eye toward making it easier to add and run custom versions of the platform. Alexa also added the ability to pay for gas at 11,500 Exxon and Mobil gas stations in the U.S. That particular features may not be an option for truckers in Europe any time soon, but the drivers are likely to see plenty of competing features as Amazon and its rivals compete to join them on their travels