Ford says it’s working to connect its SYNC in-car technology platform with Amazon’s Echo smart speaker and Alexa virtual assistant — letting drivers turn off the living-room lights from their car, for example, or start their vehicle using a voice command from the kitchen.
The plans were announced tonight, in advance of Ford’s news conference Tuesday morning at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It’s part of a crush of automotive news from the giant tech industry show.
Ford didn’t provide any timeline for the planned Amazon integration. But the move is part of a broader trend of connecting vehicles to external devices and services — including smartphones, cloud services and in-home systems. The automaker said it’s also working on a similar integration with the Wink home automation platform.
“Consumers increasingly want to stay connected to their homes while on the move,” said Don Butler, Ford’s Connected Vehicle and Services executive director, in a news release. “Linking smart devices like Amazon Echo and Wink to vehicles via SYNC would fulfill that desire, and allow consumers to connect with their vehicles even when they aren’t behind the wheel.”
The Amazon integration is expected to work in two ways. First, drivers would be able to speak to Amazon Echo devices to start, stop, lock or unlock their cars; check the fuel level or charge status of their vehicle; or determine the location of their vehicle if someone else is driving it; among other possibilities.
Ford provided this dialog as an example.
Owner: “Alexa, ask my Ford for my scheduled car start time.”
Alexa: “Here is the list of your current go times. You have a start time set for Monday at 7 a.m., with a cabin temperature set to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Tuesday at 5:45 a.m., with a cabin temperature set to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Owner: “Alexa, ask my Ford for my car’s driving range.”
Alexa: “You have an available range of 56 miles.”
Second, customers would be able to access Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant, by pressing the voice command button in the steering wheel — asking, for example, whether the garage door is closed or the porch light is on at home. This is part of a broader effort by Amazon to offer Alexa’s features separate from the Echo device.
The market is large: Ford says it has more than 15 million SYNC-equipped vehicles on the road globally, and expects the number to rise to 43 million by 2020.