New Alexa Transit Feature Provides Voice Public Transportation Guide
Alexa became a guide to traveling by public transportation this week with the introduction of the new Alexa Transit feature. The voice assistant added information on buses and trains, including real-time updates in seven major U.S. cities, with plans to add many more. Alexa Transit was released at the same time with the new Amazon Echo Buds hearables, a combination likely aimed at boosting Alexa use outside of the home over Google Assistant or Siri.
Right now, Alexa’s public transportation knowledge covers New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, and Newark and Jersey City area in New Jersey. The feature fills the voice assistant’s database with information on bus and train stations, how to navigate them, and how to use public transit to commute or reach interesting places nearby. Users can connect their Alexa accounts and fill in their home and work locations and get answers about their commute or the best directions to get to either destination. Alexa can also answer questions about specific trains and buses, including their status should they be slowed or suspended for some reason. When asked, Alexa will give directions by car or public transit to specific addresses or notable tourist destinations, such as the Empire State Building or Liberty Bell by voice or in visual form on a smartphone.
“Public transit can efficiently connect people and places, often saving riders time and money, while also reducing traffic congestion. It’s always been our vision for Alexa to help customers wherever they are—both at home, and on-the-go. To make it even easier to use public transportation in cities, today we’re introducing Alexa Transit, a new feature that simplifies navigating public transit to or from home, work, or other destinations,” Amazon wrote in its introduction of the feature. “This is just the beginning for the Alexa Transit feature, and we plan to continue evolving it over time as we hear feedback from customers.”
Transit directions are useful for a lot of people who aren’t driving and Amazon wants people to think of Alexa as an option alongside Google Maps or Apple Maps. The connection between Echo Buds and Alexa streamlines that connection. The dual release is an easy way to get the hearables to promote the transit info and vice versa. Public transit could also potentially be just one of Alexa’s moves in competing, especially with Google, when it comes to navigation. Google has regularly integrated voice AI into Maps, channeling Google Translate to help travelers find their way in new places and Google Assistant pulling up voting locations and ballot box drop-offs ahead of last year’s election. Google Maps also uses AI to generate audio walking directions specifically designed for people with visual impairments, including guides to bus and train stations. The WeWalk smart cane does the same with its custom voice assistant.