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Published on October 23rd, 2016 | by Guest

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Ford Puts Alexa in Focus

The future is creeping closer. Many of us are already used to asking Siri for information, advice and directions, and now the functionality of a virtual assistant is set to enter our vehicles, with Ford’s embrace of Alexa, Amazon’s popular voice-controlled assistant. This year, Ford will be placing the device in select cars, in an attempt to make things smarter and more convenient. With the new technology, drivers of the Ford Focus Electric, the Ford Fusion Energi and the Ford C-Max Energi will be able to link their cars to their homes via Alexa. If the rollout is successful in these vehicles, Ford is also considering adding the technology to others.

Not Alone

Ford isn’t the only company that is pushing vehicle-based Alexa integration. Genesis Motors, the luxury division of Hyundai, claims to be the first automaker to enable drivers to use remote voice commands in its G80 and G90 models. While this is technically true, several other companies are also exploring this technology. BMW, for example, announced an iPhone app, BMW Connected, that it says will act as a personal assistant, and scan for mobility-related information in digital calendar entries to notify the driver of the ideal departure time based on real-time traffic. And later this year, users will be able to access BMW Connected via Alexa, enabling them to query their vehicle’s status (like remaining range) and execute remote commands (like locking the doors).

Some of the uses of Alexa aren’t strictly sanctioned by manufacturers; look no further than the Tesla owner who hacked his car to allow Alexa voice commands to pull it in and out of the garage. But for the most part, integration is company-driven, and Ford in particular is looking to link functionality together via Ford Sync, its in-vehicle communications and entertainment system. According to Ford, 15 million Sync-equipped vehicles are already on the road, and 43 million are expected to be available by 2020. The future seems bright for vehicle systems that can be operated by voice control, and may be one step on the road to full automation.

What Can You Do with Alexa?

This new technology is all very well, but what can you actually do with it? Well, the crucial part is being able to link your newly smart car with your smart home, so you can turn the living room lights off at home from your car, or start your vehicle using a voice command from the kitchen. The plan is to integrate the in-car system with the Wink home automation platform, allowing consumers to be connected to their homes while on the move, and with their vehicles even when not behind the wheel.

Among other possibilities, users will be able to speak to the Alexa virtual assistant system to start, stop, lock or unlock their cars, check the fuel level or charge status of their vehicle, or determine the location of the vehicle if someone else is driving it. Customers would also be able to access Alexa by pressing a voice command button on the steering wheel to find out, for example, whether the garage door is closed or the porch light is on at home. It’s a great step forward for those interested in integrating their smart home with their vehicle.

Is It Worth It?

With so much new tech flooding the market, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out how to use it all. With the setup time and learning curve necessary to make this kind of software work correctly, it can sometimes be tempting to resist using it at all. But there are some great applications for this technology. For example, how about if, when you got lost, you could ask Alexa to get you home, and it would provide a list of turn-by-turn directions? Useful for when you get turned around in an unfamiliar area. Or maybe you could ask Alexa to call a friend for you, or send texts or emails, without having to touch your phone? A very useful feature to have while driving. Smartphones already ship with much of this functionality of course, but perhaps, if improved, this technology could form the core of the universal on-the-go smart-home hub we didn’t even know we needed.

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