Voice control has been around in cars for well over a decade, but it only recently started to become genuinely good and useful. The premium German manufacturers are leaders in this field, but a new name, EV startup Rivian, will soon challenge them with its full integration of Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa.
According to an official press release, both the R1T pickup and the R1S SUV will come with Alexa from the factory. It will enable occupants to speak to the car and it will understand commands for navigation, media, making calls, heating and ventilation, windows, opening and closing the front trunk and more. Some of these functions will even work when the vehicle is not connected to the internet, and this is an important point since Rivians are off-road-oriented and will probably reach places where cell network reception is poor or inexistent.
Amazon is currently working towards launching Echo Auto, a device that you can connect to your car and essentially have most of the functionality provided by a factory voice assistant. Unlike that solution, though, all Rivian vehicles will have Alexa already installed, without the need for any additional gadgets or software.
Rivian will also pre-install Alexa on the fleet of 100,000 all-electric delivery vans ordered by Amazon. According to the manufacturer, these EV vans will enter active service as of 2021, while the R1T and R1S production models will debut around the end of 2020. It will also provide its skateboard platform to Ford and Lincoln for models under these brands, but we don't know if these will get Alexa too, in place of the manufacturers' proprietary voice command solutions.
Rivian to integrate Alexa directly into upcoming vehicles
Direct integration into Rivian connected car system to provide seamless Alexa experience - no phone or app required.
With Alexa, drivers can control key vehicle features -- even in remote locations with poor reception - and access unique Rivian "home-to-car" and "car-to-home" skills.
Alexa integration will also extend to upcoming fleet of 100,000 all-electric Amazon delivery vans.
Programmed directly into the vehicle's connected car system, Rivian owners will be able to ask Alexa to control key vehicle features such as HVAC, windows, opening and closing the frunk, and more. Users will be able to check on their gear remotely by accessing the vehicle's bed camera from screen-based devices like Echo Show and Fire TV. The integration also allows Rivian to provide new "car-to-home" and "home-to-car" skills unique to its vehicles, as well as access to certain Alexa features when the vehicle is offline.
Offline control is key for Rivian's electric adventure vehicles. Built for off-road use with the ability to travel up to 400 miles on a single charge, Rivian vehicles are designed to be taken to remote, rugged locations, often where cellular networks are inaccessible.
"Rivian's vision is to enable exploration without compromises and provide our owners the best digital experience, no matter where their adventure takes them," said Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe. "We want this to be the most comprehensive, most seamless Alexa integration in the market."
Set to debut at the end of 2020 in the Rivian R1T and R1S, the integration also allows access to all standard Alexa features and capabilities – playing music, getting directions, placing calls, controlling smart home devices, and accessing tens of thousands of other Alexa skills – providing customers with a seamless experience from the home to the car and back again.
"We've continued to be impressed by the entire team at Rivian, and we're excited to be working together on this upcoming integration," said Ned Curic, Vice President of Alexa Auto at Amazon. "By leveraging the newest version of the Alexa Auto SDK, Rivian is able to make Alexa a natural part of the driving experience and provide customers with continuous access to key car control features – even in remote locations where reception is poor or nonexistent."
In late September, Amazon announced it was ordering 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from Rivian, the largest order ever of electric delivery vehicles. Rivian will also extend the Alexa integration supported in the R1T and R1S to these vehicles, which will start delivering packages to customers in 2021.
The Rivian team will be at the Amazon Automotive booth at CES this week (January 6-11) with the R1T pickup, providing a glimpse of the Alexa integration. Their booth is located in Las Vegas Convention Center, North Hall – 5616.