Today we are introducing Alexa Auto SDK version 4.0, our latest major update of the in-cabin Alexa experience. This new version provides a variety of exciting updates to the SDK, including a driver-focused multimodal experience delivered through Alexa Presentation Language. Our vision is to deliver the best customer experiences in the vehicle using Alexa while making it easier for automakers to integrate these updates into their products. With the release of 4.0, Alexa Auto SDK is more versatile than ever and opens the door for the next generation of Alexa-enabled experiences in the vehicle.
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Introducing Alexa Presentation Language for Auto
We are excited to introduce Alexa Presentation Language (APL) to Alexa Auto SDK 4.0. APL is designed to deliver flexible multimodal experiences to Alexa-powered devices with screens and is used today on our Amazon Echo family of devices. APL is a major improvement for Alexa in the vehicle because it lays the groundwork for the next generation of multimodal Alexa experiences designed for vehicles. This includes recognizing different vehicle driving states (parked or moving) and lighting conditions (day or night) while providing developers color themes to choose from. Before today, automakers had to develop visual experiences in the vehicle themselves, requiring more development effort and time. APL for Auto reduces that effort by providing a more efficient way to deliver multimodal experiences without creating additional driver distraction. Local Info and Smart Home are the first two domains supported and more will be enabled over time.
APL for Auto, Alexa can display local search results on the screen and
allow drivers to quickly view details about a point of interest (POI).
Buttons on the screen to navigate to or call the business are
prominently placed for quick action. The amount of detail shown on
screen will depend on the vehicle state, with additional information
such as ratings and address details showing while parked. Navigating to a
POI will seamlessly use the onboard in-vehicle infotainment (IVI)
system for turn-by-turn navigation.
Customers love using Alexa to interact with their smart home devices and we are excited to extend the multimodal Smart Home experience into the vehicle cabin. Alexa will now show a visual confirmation and allow basic touch control of Smart Home devices from the vehicle infotainment screen in conjunction with the Alexa voice experience. For example, now when a driver says, “Alexa, turn on the porch light,” a visual card appears on the infotainment screen showing the light’s current status with the ability to control it. The visual card experience is similar to our Echo Show devices, however considerations are made for the automotive context, such as up/down arrows instead of sliders for brightness control. Initially, the Smart Home APL experience will support lights, switches, and plugs with thermostat support planned for later in 2022. Smart Home for Alexa in the vehicle will launch in Q1 2022 as a cloud update.
Future domain support in APL for Auto
Smart Home and Local Info are just the beginning of what we have planned using APL for Auto. We look forward to introducing more domains to Alexa Auto customers, including Weather, Productivity, expanded Smart Home support, News/Information, Communication and even third-party skills in the future. As domains are introduced, cloud updates will allow them to work in customers’ vehicles without needing a vehicle software update.
Driver-focused flexible design architecture
APL for Auto is designed to be flexible for OEMs to integrate into their infotainment systems while providing an experience tailored for driving. Developers may select from three viewport sizes - extra small, small and medium - and six available color themes when integrating Alexa screens in the IVI. The themes provide options designed for day or night driving.
Additional features included in Alexa Auto SDK 4.0
Entertainment updates: Audio Ducking and Media Resume
Customers love to use entertainment features with Alexa and we are making the experience even better with two new features - Media Resume and Audio Ducking. Media Resume automatically continues media playback the next time the vehicle is turned on and without the customer asking, saving time and improving the experience. Now customers can jump back in to their favorite crime podcast quickly while running errands around town. Audio Ducking adds a nice touch to the media experience by automatically lowering the volume of the audio stream for other high-priority channels, such as dialog and alarms. Based on the automaker's preference, ducking can also be performed with any other head unit app (ie. Android Auto or Apple CarPlay).
Device-to-Skills Communication for Alexa Custom Assistant
For automakers integrating Alexa Custom Assistant, we are introducing a new feature that allows OEM skills to exchange data with Alexa. Developers can now develop differentiated in-vehicle experiences for customers by creating smarter, more contextually-aware skills that can access a rich set of vehicle data and provide customized actions.
Example scenario using Device-to-Skills Communication:
Customer (notices check engine light come on): “What’s wrong with my car?”
Context: <Trouble Code: Check Engine, O2 Sensor>
Brandon (OEM-branded assistant): “Your check engine light is on because of an oxygen sensor failure. Do you want me to schedule a service center appointment?”
Brandon: “Scheduling service appointment with Acme Motors for August 2nd.”
Keep others in the loop with Share My ETA
This feature lets drivers conveniently share their arrival time to a destination by using their voice and Alexa. An announcement can be sent to any Echo device on the customer’s account or via a SMS text message to a contact shared with Alexa. Share My ETA provides drivers a safe and easy way to communicate their ETA with family or friends while on their commute without needing to reach for their phone. As long as the IVI is running Auto SDK 2.3 or higher and a home address is saved on their account, customers can say “Alexa, share my ETA home” to send an announcement to their home Echo devices, for example.
To access version 4.0 of the Alexa Auto SDK, go to our respository on GitHub or refer to the Alexa Automotive Documentation for implementation guidance.