There are quite a few newer cars that offer some kind of connectivity with Alexa, Amazon’s control-happy AI app that can be configured to pretty much run your life through voice commands. It started as a home-based system, but it’s now ready for mainstream life in the auto world. Provided you have a smartphone and your car has a stereo system – even if it’s a vintage AM/FM 8-track player from 1976 – Echo Auto can hook you up with Alexa.
Ideally, the preferred method of connection is through Bluetooth. Echo Auto can connect wirelessly to most radios with Bluetooth capability or an auxiliary input. Failing that, there are all kinds of third-party FM transmitters that can connect to the device, allowing Echo Auto to broadcast itself through a traditional FM frequency.
Once connected, Echo Auto lets you talk to Alexa completely hands-free in the car. According to Amazon, Alexa currently has 50,000 skills (a snazzy way to say apps) that allow it to handle a range of tasks, from finding music through numerous streaming services to offering up driving directions. Those are typical things one might appreciate in the car, but Alexa can go far beyond that to do things like making grocery shopping lists en route to the store, check current news, and if you have it hooked to your house, you can even turn on the lights before you get home from work. And it’s all done via voice commands through Echo Auto’s little dash-mounted box with the pulsing blue light.
Therein lies the catch – voice commands. If you’ve ever tried issuing commands in a car, you’ll know it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Simply saying “call dad at home” can often lead to a response like “calling data support center,” or something infinitely more embarrassing like "did you say call dat ass homie?" To get around that problem, Amazon says Echo Auto uses no less than eight small microphones to effectively cancel out ambient noise.
We don’t know how well it works because it’s not available just yet, but consider us very interested. If you decide to forego all communication fears and jump on the Echo train early, you can request to get on the company's invitation-only pre-order list where it will sell for just $25. Even if you wait until it's actually out (which should be soon) the price jumps to $50, and honestly, that still seems like a good deal for something that can add so much hands-free capability to a car.