In the shadow of a blockbuster Apple press conference earlier this afternoon, Amazon quietly announced general availability of the Alexa Auto SDK 2.0, the latest version of the software development kit that enables automotive OEMs to integrate Alexa into their vehicles. This release ships with a suite of tools for enabling Alexa to play music, perform navigation, and control basic car functions and for allowing access to the assistant even when internet connectivity is limited or nonexistent.
To this end, the SDK includes ready-to-run sample apps for most automotive platforms and design guidelines, including C++ and Java libraries that facilitate the processing of audio inputs and triggers and help establish a connection with the Alexa service. It also includes documentation for Android, Linux, Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), and QNX operating systems on Arm and x86 processor architectures.
The Alexa Auto SDK 2.0 supports core Alexa functionality, such as speech recognition and text-to-speech, as well as other capabilities — like streaming media, notifications, weather reports, and over 90,000 first- and third-party voice apps. It can be updated over the air and packs in the Local Voice Control extension, which embeds a scaled-down version of Alexa’s cloud-based Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) into a vehicle’s infotainment system. Now, even when disconnected from the internet Alexa will understand and respond to utterances like “Alexa, turn on the A/C,” “Alexa, tune to 90.5 FM,” or “Alexa, call Jackie.”
“Since its release last summer, we’ve seen an incredible response from automakers interested in using the Alexa Auto SDK to embed Alexa directly into their vehicles,” said Ned Curic, VP of Alexa Auto at Amazon, in a statement. “At the same time, we know drivers often find themselves in places with poor or limited connectivity, and they still want to be able to access certain features and services through Alexa. This newest version of the Alexa Auto SDK delivers that capability for automakers, enabling their customers to take Alexa even more places on the go.”
The Alexa Auto SDK 2.0 is freely available on GitHub as of today. Here’s a list of the available features, courtesy of Amazon:
- Music and Radio: Control media playback, stream music, audiobooks, and podcasts from leading providers, tune radio, change local media sources, turn up the volume, and adjust equalizer.
- Calling and Messaging: Dial by name and number, control call in progress, make Alexa announcements, use Alexa Drop In, join meetings, and send and receive Alexa messages.
- Search and Navigation: Navigate to favorite destinations, search for places by name, brand, category, address, or intersection, get details such as hours of operation, phone number, and ratings, determine route info like traffic and ETA, and cancel navigation in progress.
- Car Control: Turn on air conditioning, set desired cabin temperature, control temperature by zone, set fan mode and speed, defrost front and rear windshield, and control interior cabin lighting.
Amazon’s Alexa Auto team introduced the Auto SDK in August 2018 in what was perceived as an attempt to head off gains by Siri in Apple’s CarPlay, SoundHound’s Houndify platform, and Google Assistant in Android Auto. Since then, Amazon has worked with automakers like Ford, as well as companies like Anker, to build its assistant into vehicles and aftermarket accessories. The latter released a $50 gadget — the Roav Viva — that plugs into a cigarette lighter and brings Alexa to cars without an infotainment console.
Separately, Amazon last year launched the Echo Auto, a cassette-shaped device that taps Alexa for voice recognition and draws power from a standard 12V power outlet or USB port. It runs a custom operating system, has an eight-microphone array, and pairs with a car’s dashboard via Bluetooth or a 3.5mm port, piggybacking on a phone for connectivity.