On August 9, Amazon announced the launch of Alexa Auto Software Development Kit (SDK), which makes it easier for software developers to integrate Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, into vehicles. As a result, automakers can integrate Alexa to perform more tasks through hands-free voice control, such as navigating, managing infotainment centers, and controlling smart home devices from a vehicle.
OEMs such as Ford and Toyota have been introducing Alexa to their vehicles over the past few years. What’s different about the Amazon launch is that Amazon, for the first time, is making a development kit just for vehicles (via Amazon Auto). The release of an SDK is important for the uptake of technologies such as voice assistants. SDKs make a technology more accessible by allowing developers to integrate third-party features into their own software, apps, or platforms. (Apple’s release of an SDK for the iPhone arguably helped propel the iPhone to greater heights of popularity when the device was first launched.) The Alexa SDK signals Amazon’s intent to make the vehicle a more important element of a voice-based ecosystem that powers how we live. For example, as Tech Crunch reported:
The SDK will allow for streaming media from Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and Audible, for the time being, and will allow customers to place calls by saying the contact’s name or phone number. These will be launched over the native calling service in the vehicle.
Plus, it can tap into a native turn-by-turn navigation system, when customers specify an address or point of interest, or if they cancel the navigation.
A local search feature lets customers search for restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, hotels, and other business, and navigate to the location.
Those are just some of the ways Amazon wants owning a vehicle to become a voice-first experience, with Amazon at the center of the experience. Amazon has plenty of competition, too, including Apple, Google, Nvidia, and SoundHound, according to Venture Beat. All those companies are developing ways to integrate their own voice-based technologies into vehicles, with Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto being notable examples.
The stakes are high. I wrote earlier this year on Grow with Cars that about half of Americans use digital voice assistants, according to a recently conducted Pew Research Center study. And according to Gartner, by 2019, 30 percent of all web browsing will be done without a screen, and one-third of all searches will be voice led this year.
As Forrester Research Analyst Dipanjan Chatterjee wrote recently on Forrester’s blog, “Voice will be much more than assistants and speakers. It will fundamentally alter how consumers and brands interact. Voice will drive discovery and purchase. Voice will drive engagement and relationships.”
The competition among the technology players is good for automotive because the providers of voice assistants are pushing each other to make more innovative and useful products across the entire ecosystem, whether consumers are using their voices to drive their cars or to shop for vehicles on their devices and desktops.
My advice to dealerships is to embrace these technologies so that you keep pace with how people want to discover you. As I discussed on Grow with Cars, one way dealerships are making the transition is to optimize website content to be discovered through more complex voice commands. Another approach (among many) is to embed voice-based search into your website, which is a capability that Dealer Inspire supports through our own Website Voice Search product. I recently shared the product with NBC Chicago Tech Trends, as shown here. I mentioned that Dealer Inspire Website Voice Search makes it possible for consumers to take a search that used to take seconds down to milliseconds.
The latest Amazon development shows that thriving in a voice-first world means thinking of voice-based commands like you probably think of text-based experiences today – which is to say, so common that you don’t even think twice about your customer’s choice of navigation. The day is quickly arriving where voice will be the de facto way people interact with machines to live their lives. Will you be ready?