BMW owners have been able to use Amazon’s Alexa as their in-car voice assistant since 2018. But the automaker announced that it will be taking things a step further, using Amazon’s Alexa core technology to build its own custom voice assistant.
The voice assistant will be built using Amazon’s Alexa Custom Assistant, a service that lets automakers and device manufacturers build their own digital assistants using the company’s Alexa technology.
BMW will be able to create its own wake words and custom voices and capabilities using Alexa as a foundation to “enable an even more natural dialogue between driver and vehicle,” the automaker said. This is especially crucial to help reduce distractions for drivers who may need help adjusting the heating and cooling settings, finding directions, or changing their music while traveling at high speeds.
Amazon launched its Alexa Custom Assistant service in late 2021 with the idea of saving other companies money by licensing Alexa’s foundational technology for them to build their own assistants.
BMW says it plans on rolling out the new custom-built voice assistant to its cars “within the next two years.” The automaker said the new feature will “provide customers the benefits of an intelligent assistant that is a vehicle and services expert, while Alexa will provide the familiar experience many customers already know and love.”
The screens and software experiences inside cars have proven to be a ripe market for companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google. But only the latter two tech giants have their own mobile operating systems that allow for plug-in platforms like Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto.
Amazon also manufactures its own plug-in device for cars called Echo Auto, though the device was far from perfect. When we tested it in our review, it struggled with location-based queries and was saddled with the connection issues of whatever phone it was tethered to.
Amazon has struck some deals with car makers for direct Alexa integrations, most recently with Lamborghini and electric vehicle startup Rivian, and Amazon’s Echo Auto platform can be accessed via a mobile app or through a dongle you plug into your car. But these aren’t quite as seamless as the competition offered by Apple and Google.