Garmin Embeds Alexa Custom Assistant in Car Infotainment System
Garmin has debuted a new voice assistant built with Amazon’s Alexa Custom Assistant platform. Drivers will be able to access all of Alexa’s capabilities via Garmin’s branded voice assistant without any extra steps. Garmin is the third company to announce plans to use the Alexa Custom Assistant platform, all of which have been automotive-focused.
The new version of Garmin’s voice assistant uses the company’s branding and offers the unique features and tools it did before, but with a lot more potential underneath the service. Drivers interact with a unified voice assistant, but Garmin and Alexa provide answers and complete tasks based on suitability regardless of whether the driver begins by saying “Alexa” or “OK, Garmin,” For instance, drivers might ask Garmin to play a song or audiobook and hear it start to play over the speakers, but it is technically Alexa fulfilling the request. The system goes both ways, too, so that a driver might ask Alexa to turn on the heat or open a window, but it’s the Garmin portion of the car’s AI that reacts and performs the task.
“Garmin is honored to be the first Tier 1 auto OEM supplier to integrate Alexa Custom Assistant capabilities into in-vehicle infotainment and navigation systems,” Garmin Auto OEM managing director Matt Munn said in a statement. “This collaboration allows Garmin’s voice solutions team to provide leading automakers with a custom intelligent assistant using Amazon’s industry-leading AI technology. Garmin has collaborated with Amazon on several projects, and we look forward to continuing our strong relationship.”
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The new system appears to be the fulfillment of Garmin’s announcement back in 2018 that it planned to integrate Alexa into its services. While nothing happened immediately, there have been indicators that the companies were working toward this arrangement, most recently when Garmin joined Amazon’s Voice Interoperability Initiative (VII) to push voice-capable devices to be able to connect to each other. Garmin’s deal with Alexa doesn’t seem to affect some of its other devices, such as the dēzl smart displays for trucks with the OK, Garmin voice assistant. Those are aimed more at long-haul trucks and include popular truck routes, a load-to-dock guidance system, and the Truck and Trailer Services directory.
The Alexa Custom Assistant debuted in January with a deal to be part of Fiat Chrysler vehicles. Soon after, Qualcomm announced that its Snapdragon Automotive Cockpit Platforms, used by General Motors and other carmakers, would also apply the new technology. While the platform isn’t limited to just cars, the appeal to carmakers of Alexa Custom Assistant’s features is obvious and one that Garmin clearly sees as a winner in the increasingly competitive auto voice assistant market.
“Our collaboration with Garmin marks an important milestone as we scale global access to Alexa Custom Assistant,” Alexa Automotive vice president Ned Curic said in a statement. “Garmin deeply understands the unique challenges and opportunities that automakers face as they develop and integrate the next generation of connected digital cabins, and we’re excited to extend our collaboration to deliver bespoke, best-in-class customer experiences without the investment, long development cycles, and resources required to build it from scratch and maintain over time.”
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