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Alexa leaves home: Toyota, Lexus models host Amazon Echo

Amazon continues to thwart voice-assistant competition like Google and Apple with its latest smart car link-up.

By Sabrina Dougall

As part of the drive to connect more devices to the web, Toyota will link Amazon Alexa to its newer Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

The link-up will enable drivers of certain Toyota or Lexus models to access the voice-activated applications (known as “Skills”) of their Amazon Echo smart home hub while on the road. The firm envisages road users asking Alexa for weather and news updates, ordering food items, arranging calendar appointments and altering lighting and heating of their home while on the move.

Toyota joins Hyundai, Ford and BMW in auto companies that have pledged to introduce Amazon Alexa into vehicles. Hyundai first integrated the AWS cloud-based product with its Blue Link connected car app in November 2016.

Drivers will also be able to ask Alexa for directions, inquire about the identity of a nearby building or ask for recommendations for a Chinese restaurant.

Ford also announced this week that electrical vehicle model owners will be able to power up their engine, unlock their car and hear fuel and battery levels remotely using their Echo home device.

“Ford and Amazon are aligned around a vision that your voice should be the primary way to interface with your favourite devices and services,” said Don Butler, executive director, Ford Connected Vehicle and Services.

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Amazon Echo has outbested Google Assistant and Apple Siri, with sales of the former comfortably exceeding the search engine giant and personal device rivals.

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In early December, Google blocked YouTube from functioning on Amazon Devices in a rare public baring of teeth. Google said it made the move as the rival firm’s products did not carry Google Home and blocked flagship service Prime Video for Google Cast users.

“Voice services are rapidly becoming more popular and through our integration with Amazon Alexa, Toyota and Lexus customers will soon be able to easily speak to Alexa in their cars while on-the-go,” said Zack Hicks, snr VP and CIO of Toyota Motor North America and CEO of Toyota Connected.

Toyota’s Entune App suite will be available in select models to US customers, with expansion of compatible auto types expected in 2019, announced the Japanese company at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. The company did not confirm which models would be first to take on Amazon connectivity.

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