Three ways automakers can use the Alexa Auto SDK to build connected and personalized in-vehicle experiences

Arianne Walker Jun 28, 2022
Alexa Live Alexa Skills

Voice technology is especially appropriate for environments where people are focused on other tasks, and that goes for the car as much as the kitchen or dining room. Voice can strip away complexity, minimize distractions, and make each drive more productive and entertaining.

The Amazon Alexa Built-in experience provides the convenience of voice-initiated interactions, reducing the need for drivers to view or touch screens, so they can keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. The Alexa in-vehicle experience is designed to be an extension of the Alexa experience at home, including much of what customers already know and love about Alexa – plus automotive-specific functionality including car control, navigation, and third-party.

Today, Amazon is working with nearly every major automaker – including Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, Stellantis, and VW – integrating Alexa into their vehicles, and building custom connected vehicle skills. These skills make it possible for customers to use Alexa to control their vehicle from the comfort of their home or mobile device, such as to precondition the vehicle, lock or unlock the doors, check the fuel or charge status and more.

Automakers use the Alexa Auto Software Development Kit (Alexa Auto SDK) to bring the Alexa experience into their vehicles. The Alexa Auto SDK includes core Alexa functionality, along with other functionalities such as the ability to stream media, control smart home devices from within the vehicle, receive timely notifications, and interact with tens of thousands of Alexa skills.

Typically, automakers rely on a third-party systems integrator to provide software for their in-vehicle infotainment systems. Systems integrators deliver infotainment system software to automakers that plug it into the hardware in their vehicles. By using the Alexa Auto SDK, automakers and systems integrators can not only bring Alexa into vehicles, but also have greater control over their infotainment systems, tailoring them to align with their brand values and the needs of their customers. 

Shweta Kapil, senior solutions architect for Amazon Smart Vehicles, acts as a primary point of technical contact for systems integrators as they implement Alexa Auto SDK. 

Kapil highlights three features of Alexa Auto SDK that enhances the in-vehicle experience.

1.     Alexa Custom Assistant

Automakers and systems integrators can use Amazon’s Alexa Custom Assistant, a new solution that enables device makers and service providers to create intelligent assistants tailored to their brand personality and customers’ needs using the power of Alexa’s artificial intelligence. Developers can use the Alexa Custom Assistant to build an intelligent assistant without having to start from scratch, reducing cost, complexity, and development cycles.

The industry-leading conversational AI powering the Alexa Custom Assistant (ACA) is constantly improving its spoken language understanding, intent routing, and response orchestration to provide a user-friendly interface for drivers and passengers. Global automaker Stellantis (formerly known as FCA) was the first to announce Alexa Custom Assistant in a vehicle, and has already begun the planning process for the development of Stellantis-branded intelligent assistant for integration in select vehicle models.

Alexa Custom Assistant allows the branded assistant and Alexa to co-exist, seamlessly cooperating to fulfill a customer’s request while using artificial intelligence to route each request to the assistant that can best carry it out. For example, vehicle-related requests, such as vehicle diagnostics, are routed to the brand’s custom assistant, while Alexa can play music, call friends and family, create appointments, set a timer or fulfill a wide variety of other requests. 

“Alexa Custom Assistant makes the experience personalized,” says Kapil. “It supports the two assistants—the brand’s assistant and Alexa in the cloud—working together, which removes the burden from the customer of knowing which assistant to ask.”

2.     Alexa Presentation Language

The Alexa Auto ADK also allows customers to use voice commands to bring up information and engage with Alexa via multimodal experiences using the vehicle touchscreen, linking voice, visual and touch to improve the overall experience. Alexa Presentation Language (APL) is a visual design framework that helps developers build interactive voice and visual experiences across the device landscape. APL for Auto, introduced with Alexa Auto SDK 4.0 in December, is designed for the vehicle context, taking into account vehicle driving state, screen layout and lighting conditions. 

The visual experiences allow drivers to have an enriching multimodal experience while interacting with Alexa. For example, they can say “Alexa, show me nearby coffee shops,” to get a list of coffee shops and their details on the car’s screen. Smart Home commands are also enhanced using APL, enabling a richer experience using the vehicle touchscreen while controlling or viewing devices. This includes the all-new Smart Home Dashboard, which gives customers access to a list of their smart home devices simply by saying, “Alexa, show me my Smart Home Dashboard.” APL makes intelligent decisions on the depth of information to display depending on the state of the vehicle. 

“The screen shows more details, like reviews, if the vehicle is parked, and displays fewer details when the vehicle is in motion to reduce driver distraction,” shares Kapil.


Register for Alexa Live

3.     Car Control

Through Alexa Auto SDK, customers can use Car Control to interact with their vehicle’s features and functions. This includes setting the desired cabin temperature, defrost the front and rear windshield, control interior cabin lighting, set the driving mode or operate other in-vehicle functions—just by using Alexa voice commands.

To make this experience even better for customers, we recently introduced Enhanced Car Control capabilities. This feature leverages Alexa’s Teachable AI to provide a new level of customization. For example, when a customer expresses a feeling like “Alexa, it’s hot”, rather than returning an error, Alexa will infer their intention and ask what action should be taken based on the vehicle’s capabilities, such as: “I can decrease the temperature by 5 or roll down the window. What should I do?”

“We are always working to improve the in-vehicle experience and our vision is to allow customers to converse with Alexa as if they are speaking with family or a friend says Kapil. “They can manage everything using voice.”

To learn more about the latest ways that automakers are integrating Alexa into their vehicles, sign up for Alexa Live 2022.

Related Articles

How LC Publishing used the Alexa Web API to take The Dark Citadel to the next level
The Alexa Skills Insights Team helped the skill PremierLeague boost discovery and increase users
Creating communal experiences with Alexa brought this business to life