Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant coming to MINIs
The BMW Group is the latest automaker to announce the addition of Amazon’s Alexa to its cars.
The cloud-based voice activation system will start appearing in all BMW and Mini models from mid-2018.
Voice activation has been around for years but most systems are still finicky things that more often than not get commands wrong. Alexa is one of the better systems out there. Another is Google Home. Mercedes-Benz announced in April that it was integrating both systems in its own cars.
Alexa can handle numerous functions, referred to as “skills,” and many of these are helpful in driving situations, as demonstrated in the video. For example, it can tell you the weather, give you traffic updates, play your favorite songs, order a pizza…there are literally tens of thousands of skills already present and the list is constantly growing.
There are car-specific skills too. With the BMW Connected app, you can ask Alexa to check vehicle information such as the state of charge or fuel level, or control some car functions remotely. The latter means you could start the car’s heater on a cold day before leaving your home.
You don’t need a smartphone for Alexa to function. In BMW and Mini cars, the system will connect to the Internet via the car’s in-built SIM card. And relevant visual content for certain skills is shown in the infotainment screen.