'Alexa, are we there yet?'
While voice controls like Alexa and Siri in the home are relatively new, the technology has been available in cars for over two decades. Unfortunately, the systems have never been particularly good, offering limited features and often failing to hear you correctly.
But that is slowly changing. Two decades after Mercedes first offered voice control – and 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.
Amazon is currently working with a number of car makers with its Alexa Auto division, bringing the assistant to new vehicles. With Alexa integrated, drivers can use the assistant in ways they already do at home; you can ask it to check the front door is locked as you drive away, or switch off the smart plug connected to your hair straighteners when you forget.
You can also use Alexa Auto to drop-in on your home via the Echo smart speakers you already own, plus the less advanced Alexa tasks like playing music and checking the weather forecast.
Here is a quick guide to car manufacturers which are starting to fit their vehicles with Alexa.
The electric e-tron SUV comes with integrated Alexa voice controlAudi
As of early 2021, select Audi vehicles offer the full Alexa experience, with the assistant listening to your voice commands and working in the car just as it does at home. Alexa first appeared on Audi's electric e-tron SUV, but has since been rolled out to several of the company's larger and more premium 2019 and 2020 model year vehicles. These include:
You can ask Alexa about the charge level of the electric BMW i3
In 2018, BMW showed off how it would integrate Alexa with its car infotainment system. But then, in early 2019, it demonstrated a voice assistant of its own, summoned by saying 'Hey BMW'. You could even change the name to anything you like. It was a strange move from the company to first invest in Alexa integration, then produce an assistant of its own.
But now the situation is simpler, and Alexa integration is offered on a range of BMW vehicles from model year 2018 onwards. The company has published a video here to show how to set everything up, which requires the Alexa smartphone app, and adjusting settings on the car's own iDrive infotainment system. After that, Alexa works with the car's existing voice command button on the steering wheel.
As for January 2021, Alexa is offered on the following BMW cars:
Alexa on a Buick car
Alexa is available on three models from Buick, from model years 2018 and 2020 onwards. These are:
Alexa is available on a wide range of Cadillac vehicles with model years 2018, 2019 and 2020 onwards. These include:
Alexa was only added to Chevrolet vehicles relatively recently. Some vehicle from 2019 model year have the voice assistant, but others only gained Alexa with their 2020 and 2021 model year face lifts, as outlined below:
An early adopter than most, Ford added Alexa to its Sync in-car infotainment system for a wide range of models built in 2016 onwards. This gives the driver the ability to ask Alexa questions and issue commands just as they would at home.
Alexa is available on 2016 model year onwards for the following vehicles:
Five vehicles from GMC offer support for the Alexa voice assistant, with some stretching back to the 2018 and 2019 model years. They are:
Lexus RC F
Alexa integration with Lexus vehicles requires the Alexa smartphone app for Android and iOS. Currently the app brings Alexa to the following vehicles – but note, there are difference between which vehicles, and model years, work with the Alexa apps for iOS and Android. Therefore, we have listed compatibility separately:
Lexus and Alexa app for Android:
Lexus and Alexa app for iPhone:
Lincoln also requires the Alexa smartphone app, for iOS and Android, to bring the Amazon voice assistant to its vehicles. Compatible vehicles, as of January 2021, are:
BMW-owned Mini added Alexa support to its vehicles in the 2018 model year. These include:
Amazon Alexa in a SEAT infotainment system
A member of the Volkswagen Group, Alexa is a relative newcomer to SEAT vehicles (although is currently missing from all cars from Volkswagen itself). Those with Alexa integration are:
Despite offering Alexa integration, there is currently no Alexa skill for SEAT cars.
Toyota offers Alexa on a handful of 2019 model year vehicles
Finally, Toyota offers Alexa integration with voice controls on select vehicles from 2018 model year onwards. Those cars with Alexa include:
Alexa skills let you interact with your ca from an Echo speaker
Several other vehicle makers offer an Alexa skill, but no integration in the car itself. This skill can be used to check the status of the car (how much gas does it have? Are the windows closed and doors locked?) by speaking to Alexa on a device like an Echo speaker, but does not mean the vehicle has its own Alexa to interact with.
Manufacturers who offer Alexa skills include:
To find out if you car has integrated Alexa, or an Alexa skill, visit the Amazon Auto website and consult the list.
Echo Dot (3rd Gen) Charcoal with Echo Auto