When voice controls first arrived in cars during the 1990s, they were incredibly basic and difficult to use by today's standards. You could use your voice to just control the phone — nothing else.
Fast-forward 20 years and voice control is everywhere, thanks first to Siri, and more recently to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, who between them have brought voice — and artificial intelligence — to our phones and every corner of our homes.
Now, they are entering our cars. Two decades after Mercedes first offered voice control — after years of car infotainment and communication systems lagging behind computers and smartphones - this technology is finally making a giant leap forward, with help from Amazon and Google.
Here is a quick guide to car manufacturers which are starting to fit their vehicles with Alexa.
BMW / Mini
Alexa will be integrated in the infotainment systems of all BMW and Mini cars by mid-2018, bringing tens of thousands of Alexa skills to these vehicles.
A smartphone will not always be required to use Alexa in BMWs and some models of Mini, as these cars come with a SIM card slot to give the vehicle its own internet connection (data and installation costs may apply, however.)
Other Alexa integration with BMWs is available via the BMW Connected Alexa Skill. Since September 2016, this app has let drivers remotely ask Alexa about their car's fuel or battery charge level, set climate control before getting in, and check if windows are shut and doors locked while away from the car.
Alexa will let BMW drivers control music and more with their voiceBMW
The Ford Fusion Energi was the first car to get Alexa when the carmaker added the virtual assistant to its SYNC 3 infotainment system in May 2017. This version of Alexa, though, is unable to interact with your smart home devices, so you can't ask the AI to adjust your central heating and switch the hallway lights on as you turn onto your street, for now. Smart home integration will be added to Ford's Alexa offering at a later date.
Alexa is also rolling out to other Ford vehicles that have the SYNC 3 infotainment system, shortly.
One of the first manufacturers to offer both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, SEAT made Alexa available in its Ateca and Leon models in late 2017. Alexa will also come to the Arona, Ibiza and SUV range in 2018.
Skoda announced in August 2017 that it would soon bring Alexa to its cars, although a more specific timeline has not yet been revealed.
Toyota / Lexus
Toyota is bringing Alexa to "select Toyota and Lexus vehicles with Toyota Entune 3.0 App Suits and Lexus Enform App Suite 2.0 in 2018," the carmaker said at CES 2018.
Available exclusively (for now) on the 2018 Camry and 2018 Sienna, Entune 3.0 is Toyota's flagship infotainment and navigation system, while Lexus Enform App Suite 2.0 is an optional extra on the entire 2018 Lexus fleet. Alexa will come to further models in 2019, Toyota says.
With Alexa, the auto company says, "customers can simply ask for directions, control entertainment, get the news, add items to a shopping list, control their smart home while on the road, and more."
The VW Group announced at CES 2017 that it will bring Alexa to cars across its brands, and it will do so without relying on the driver's smartphone to provide the interface or an internet connection. Alexa will come as part of a software update for cars running VW's Car-Net system, which has been around since 2013. However, there has been no indication of when Alexa will arrive just yet.