Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Battle for Smart Cars Continues – Amazon Edges into the Market

The next frontier for Automobiles has been all but created for consumers. We have seen everything from vehicle prototypes to the latest with car technology with smart cars. A car that can drive itself and learn the user has not been created. Tesla motors has lead the field with its car programming that can stop, start, sense, and drive straight. This takes care of the driving portion, but we do not yet have user-less cars or “Smart Cars”. Apple has created CarPlay which integrates iOS into a car’s infotainment system. Google has created Android Auto, but Amazon is the latest to bring its service to the table.
Amazon recently released one of its latest and greatest products the Amazon Echo Dot which is a voice-controlled device that will do everything in its power in response to literally whatever you say to it. It is controlled and responsive through its voice, Alexa. Alexa is an Artificial Intelligence “being” that is being updated every second and learning new things. In essence, “she” learns from users’ requests and her capabilities are endless.
Amazon is hoping to be a pioneer in the age of the smart car by Adapting Alexa to the road. Ford, VW, Hyundai, and Volvo have all announced Alexa integrations. The difference between “Alexa on the Go” and all the competitors is that Alexa has proven its capabilities in the Echo Dot. Alexa will have the capabilities of auto start and many other simple capabilities like locking and unlocking, but she will also have majorly unseen capabilities like informing you of certain necessity levels in your car like oil, charge level, if your car is unlocked, as well several other things. Alexa is not just restricted to the vehicle. As we know through the Echo Dot she has many capabilities and can be taken all over the house. Now she will be with you on the road and much more.
I believe that using artificial intelligence in vehicles is the next most accessible with vehicles. Many car drivers still rely on technology like their smart phones to get directions and play music as well as many menial tasks like texting. These things can result in accidents as well as unwanted trouble like getting pulled over as it is dangerous. Not only do I see Alexa on the Go as extremely useful for many car related tasks like locking and auto starting, but for a few safety hazards. Alexa would be able to control your music, read and respond to messages, and give directions with extreme accuracy and intelligence.

On the downside, I am opposed to making giant leaps like this with technology as I believe society is becoming too reliant on smart services delivered by technology, at some point, convenience becomes an excuse for laziness. Another opposition I have with Alexa-on-the-Go is that it could potentially lead to more distraction on the road. If a person becomes too distracted with the ability to multitask, this could potentially become a dangerous situation.


Jason Baskind said...

I find this post quite interesting and not too far fetched. This seems like it could be a not too complex addition to cars to add driver convenience. With that said, I do see some potential problems with this. While integrating Alexa-on-the-Go seems cool, helpful, and high-tech, I also see several downsides to this. The impact that this has could be significant since we are talking about people’s lives here. First of all, I have personally witnessed issues with the echo and the echo dot. There has been many times where I get very frustrated because Alexa hears me wrong or does not understand what I am saying. This could be a major issue on the roads because if drivers get very frustrated, it does not bode well. It can be quite dangerous actually. It can also just be a major distraction to the driver even if it works one hundred percent correctly. The driver should be focusing on the road, not talking to Alexa. It is said that the Alexa will be able to read and respond to messages as well, which could be helpful, but also could be distracting. There are certainly upsides and the idea would definitely add more convenience, but it would take away safety. The attention of the driver would be put more on Alexa than the roads, and that is not safe for anyone. Maybe amazon should wait for the near future when we finally have cars that can drive themselves. At the end of the day, there are already so many cars that have voice control, so maybe Alexa-on-the-Go wouldn’t be any more dangerous than that, but it definitely will be another distraction.

Caroline Coulter said...

The topic of driverless cars and artificial intelligence being integrated into automobiles is a big issue right now. As it stands, many companies have much of the technology needed to have fully autonomous vehicles, but the progression is being halted for the same reasons that both of you have mentioned- fear. Consumers and law makers have deemed the use of artificial intelligence in vehicles to be frightening and this may also be an issue for Amazon with Alexa, the glorified Siri. The use of artificial intelligence poses many possible (and most likely imminent) benefits for drivers and car companies, as well as the usual cons to accompany it. Would the ability to control (aspects of) your car from your phone turn into something out of a James Bond movie? The technology of the future can seem rather far fetched, but the truth is that it's already here. I feel that Amazon has entered this tech game late, and is struggling to find a more innovative way to impact the automobile industry with artificial intelligence. Talking cars and driverless cars seem to be coming much sooner than anyone expected, although Alexa may still need some debugging before she hits the road, especially in the competitive AI automobile industry with Tesla and Mercedes (etc.)

Brian Silard said...

The part of this article that I particularly liked was the skepticism of the Alexa-on-the-Go. The only thing that I trust while I’m on the road is my hands on the wheel. In the past, every time that Alexa hasn’t been able to understand me, I become a little frustrated with the Amazon device. I become frustrated because the product I purchased isn’t satisfying my requests. This isn’t something that I would want to deal with during rush-hour on a Friday afternoon while crossing the George Washington Bridge. I couldn’t agree more with the idea that “convenience becomes an excuse for laziness” (Samuel Edwards) because driving isn’t that hard of a task. We’ve allowed for music and directions to become distractions because our generation is so obsessed with everything that isn’t the task at hand.

Granted, the leaps that Amazon, Google, Apple, and other companies have made are evolutionary. The part of this article that explains how this system will be able to text, handle music, and give directions is definitely beneficial to the driver. However, it’s not like this system becomes a necessity. The integration of technology has allowed for AI to understand human commands, and that is something I never thought could possibly exist. At the same time, these programs can’t consider or make up for human-error and that is the main restriction on integrating these systems. I’m more interested in the development of smart cars, and even that is a very skeptical idea.

Sam Norton said...

I’ve always wanted a talking car, especially after reading your article. It is interesting to read that an Amazon Echo Dot can be installed in many cars, the Ford, VW, Hyundai, Volvo and Honda. My brother just installed an Amazon Echo Dot in his 2010 Honda. He uses it to listen to music on Amazon Prime Unlimited, play audio games like jeopardy, get the latest news from CNN, BBC and Washington Post, look up quick bits of information like the weather, make audio notes of things he needs to do, act as a Bluetooth for his phone, have books read to him from his Amazon Kindle library and to provide him with hands-free control of his in-car audio entertainment.
Because his Honda is not KITT (KITT is an artificially intelligent electronic computer module in the body of a highly advanced, very mobile, robotic automobile) he had to use his ingenuity to set up Alexa. He had it up and running pretty quickly. He shared that Alexa does “hear” really well in the car.
The Amazon Alexa was first introduced in vehicles by Ford. Ford integrated the Amazon Echo smart home device into their vehicles. Ford owners were the first to be able to play and resume their audiobooks, order items on Amazon, and search for and transfer local destinations to their in-car navigation system. From home, Ford vehicle owners are able to remote start, lock or unlock doors and get vehicle information using voice commands. Ford rolled out its Alexa integration in two phases. The first connects you to your car from your home through Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Amazon Tap. The second phase is expected this summer and it allows you to command Alexa while driving.
Today, April 21, 2017, Mercedes-Benz announced that all of its 2016 and 2017 vehicles in the US can now connect with both Amazon and Google’s digital voice assistants. Mercedes owners can instruct their Google Home or Amazon Echo to remotely start or lock their vehicles and send addresses to their in-car navigation system. According to Mercedes-Benz, owners will not be able to use Alexa or Google Home from inside their vehicles, but rather will use Mercedes’ in-car system to control those devices.
Many automakers hope to create their own app system for drivers so they can fully control the experience. As Ford and Mercedes, VW, Hyundai and Volvo are embracing artificial intelligence; many other automakers are still trepidatious as to not frustrate drivers.