Amazon lets BMW owners control their cars from their couches
For BMW drivers, warming the car up on cold winter mornings may no longer mean leaving the engine running for 10 minutes before beginning their commute. Instead, they may simply be able to ask Amazon's Alexa to do it for them, something Ford has also had its eye on.
Alexa is Amazon's voice-controlled personal assistant. It powers the company's internet-connected Bluetooth speaker Echo and its little sibling the Dot, but can be integrated into a host of different devices.
Alexa is equipped with what Amazon calls "skills," which basically means the ability to do different things, such as simple tasks like playing music, answering questions and providing weather forecasts. Skills can also include abilities made possible by integration with third parties, though, such as ordering a pizza from Domino's, booking an Uber ride or controlling Vivint smart home devices.
One of the latest third party integrations of this type is with the BMW Connected "personal digital mobility assistant." The service, which is otherwise available in the form of iPhone, Apple Watch and Android apps, currently provides a variety of journey management and remote vehicle control functionalities, but is ultimately aimed at delivering a whole range of mobility uses.
When used via Alexa, BMW says the Connected service will allow users to do things like check a vehicle's battery charge, query its fuel level, lock the vehicle remotely, learn about their next scheduled trip (such as what time to leave) and send destinations to their car, all using simple voice commands. Other functions also provided by BMW Connected are the remote control of a vehicle's interior climate settings, its horn and its headlight flasher.
To use the functionality, BMW drivers will need only speak the activation word "Alexa" followed by the skill trigger "BMW" to an Alexa-enabled device, such as the Echo, after which they will be able to issue a command. An example provided is "Alexa, ask BMW when I should leave for my next appointment?" after which a reply from Alexa should be forthcoming.
The BMW Connected integration with Alexa will be made available to users in the US at the end of the month and to those in the UK shortly after. Customers in Germany that are part of the initial invitation-only phase are due to follow next month.