Amazon unveiled Alexa Auto SDK 3.0 on Monday, upgrading and adding new features to its automotive platform as the market becomes increasingly competitive. Arriving a little over a year after version 2.0 debuted, the new Alexa Auto SDK appears focused on making it easier to add and run custom versions of the platform to more vehicles.
Alexa Auto SDK 2.0 centered around the first local control for the platform when it came out, eliminating the need for a cloud connection to run the system. Alexa Auto SDK 3.0, meanwhile, is built to speed up and smooth the way for carmakers who want to add the voice assistant to their vehicles. The new Alexa Auto Client Service (AACS) goes beyond the sample applications and advice for carmakers of earlier iterations. The AACS turns Alexa into a service built on Android intent messaging. That means Alexa can interact with existing Android In-vehicle Infotainment (IVI) applications for communication, entertainment, and navigation without building custom versions of those services. By cutting out those facets of the platform, the new SDK uses less than half the amount of code of its predecessor, according to Amazon. The AACS also separates the SDK from the information and entertainment application, so car companies don’t have to work on both in tandem. Amazon also controls the servicing for AACS, so car companies don’t have to do the platform’s maintenance and updates.
“We have made significant strides over the past year, working in partnership with automotive companies all over the world to integrate Alexa into their vehicles,” Alexa Auto vice president Ned Curic said in a statement. “We are constantly listening and acting on their feedback to make the experience better for our partners and their customers. With AACS, we are helping accelerate the integration of the Alexa into their vehicles, and making it easier for them to update it in the future. With simple and secure updates, they can regularly deliver new features and capabilities to keep the digital cabin fresh for their customers throughout the vehicle lifecycle.”
The AACS is the centerpiece, but not the only upgrade Amazon made to the Alexa Auto SDK. The platform supports more of the car’s controls, like windows, lights, and wipers, and can organize them by their location in the car for simple voice commands like asking Alexa to roll down the back left window. The platform also supports more voice commands for entertainment, including integrating Spotify so that a driver in a car with Spotify won’t need to download the app to control the music through Alexa. The upgrades also extend to communications, as well. The new SDK supports multilingual mode, where drivers can speak two different languages, and Alexa will recognize and respond in kind. The language duos depend on geography, with the English everywhere, but Spanish in the U.S., French in Canada, and Hindi in India as options. The new SDK also supports text messaging via paired smartphones. Alexa can read and respond to the texts and can send messages directly to Alexa devices so that someone could make an announcement on their home Echo smart speaker for those at home to hear.
The new SDK marks a significant moment for Alexa’s presence in cars, one that has been ramping up all year. This month, the Alexa app obtained a new Auto Mode that mimics Android Auto. Earlier this summer, the voice assistant added the ability to pay for gas at 11,500 Exxon and Mobil gas stations in the U.S. Alexa’s presence in cars has been steadily rising, starting with General Motors, as well as Lamborghini and Rivian. Buick, one of GM’s brands is even running a commercial suggesting people look at its cars and think its called an Alexa. Beyond direct integration, Amazon has been expanding sales of the Echo Auto device, which adds Alexa to cars where the voice assistant not integrated. Echo Auto now speaks several new languages and is sold internationally in France, Australia, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.