Ford Will Embed Amazon Alexa in Cars by Over-the-Air Update
Ford announced that it will integrate Amazon Alexa directly into hundreds of thousands of vehicles this year using its new Power-Up program of Over-the-Air (OTA) updates. The hands-free version of Alexa includes all of the voice assistant’s standard and automotive-specific features, including control over the car’s locks and remote control over smart home devices. The new Alexa arrangement comes just a few months after Ford unveiled plans for building Google Assistant and Android into millions of Ford cars starting in 2023.
For the last four years, Ford drivers needed a minimum Ford AppLink on a smartphone that could connect to the Sync 3, and later Sync 4, infotainment system. With Ford’s new Power-Up system, a software update beamed from Ford will initiate the Alexa integration. Ford’s goal is to have the new and improved Alexa in about 700,000 Bronco, F-150, Mustang, Mach-E and a few other models on the road in North America by the end of the year. Other parts of the world are slated to get the update later. Those Ford owners who do install Alexa will have a free trial lasting up to three years before vaguely described “fees,” presumably some kind of subscription service, kicks in.
“Democratizing technology and putting it within reach of millions of customers has been a part of Ford’s DNA dating back to the Model T, and our new collaboration is a continuation of that legacy,” Alexa Automotive vice president Ned Curic explained. “We can’t wait for Ford customers to experience the best of what Alexa and voice AI can do while on the road – including new features and capabilities that will be delivered seamlessly through future over-the-air software updates. We love the vote of confidence from Ford to deepen our work together and continue making the driving experience more connected, entertaining, and productive.”
The Alexa update is a component of a new six-year partnership signed by Amazon and Ford. The companies are developing further upgrades and features for the vehicular voice assistant, including the first version designed for commercial vehicles. Ford’s whole arrangement with Amazon is remarkable considering Ford’s decision to start building millions of vehicles running Google’s Android operating system, including making Google Assistant the default voice assistant. That arrangement, also set to last six years, relies on Android as an alternative for the long-running Sync platform built in-house on the Cerence Drive platform over the last 15 years.
The partnership is potentially huge for Amazon and Alexa, but the voice assistant has been on a roll of late when it comes to finding new partners. For instance, Lamborghini unveiled the Huracán Evo, the first car to rely on Alexa to control environmental settings, last month, using recent upgrades to the Alexa Auto SDK 3.0. Meanwhile, Nissan became the first car company to start using Amazon’s Connected Vehicle Skill API last month. The voice assistant took a much more comprehensive position within Fiat Chrysler, which launched the first Alexa Custom Assistant. followed more recently by Garmin’s new voice assistant built on the platform. Amazon is even going all out with Alexa as voice control for the Fire TV platform in cars. Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are the first, but not the last, models to install the new Amazon Fire TV for Auto, which gives passengers access to the smart TV platform, including Alexa voice controls.
“We’re excited to work with Amazon to bring powerful new AI-enabled experiences to Ford customers,” Ford, director of business operations, enterprise connectivity Alex Purdy said in a statement. “We believe in the power of teaming up with other innovators. Bringing Ford’s vehicle know-how together with Amazon’s technology expertise will deliver in-vehicle capabilities that help our retail customers travel more enjoyably and with ease, while helping our commercial customers operate more profitably.”