Tom Taylor, senior vice president of Amazon Alexa, today announced that Alexa Onboard would be rolling out for in-car infotainment systems and Panasonic will be one of the first to implement the solution. Alexa Onboard will enable full Alexa integration presumably through push button voice recognition for both connected and unconnected use cases. Unconnected use cases will enable you to control in-car features while full Alexa access will be accessible when connected. Panasonic and Amazon presented a short video demonstration during the press conference.
Offline Capabilities for Alexa
I caught up with Tom Taylor after the presentation and he said that the offline capabilities are important for automotive and will eventually show up in other products are well, like Amazon Echo. He mentioned that it would enable you to use Alexa for local functions even if the internet connectivity was down. An Amazon spokesperson confirmed that “this isn’t exclusive to cars.” No launch date has been named.
This is a fairly significant development. Alexa Onboard has not been previously announced nor has there been discussion of offline Alexa capabilities. Alexa has been thought of to date as a cloud-based solution only. The offline capabilities will enable Alexa to operate in more environments even without WiFi and internet access. The scope of the Alexa everywhere strategy has expanded.
A Faster Way Into Automotive for Amazon
Voicebot reported last week that Alexa was being integrated into infotainment systems by Garmin. That is a good move for Amazon. It can take years for a new feature to show up in a car when working directly with auto manufacturers. Integrating with an infotainment system that is already baked into an auto model platform can accelerate Alexa’s time to market in automotive. The Panasonic announcement is much bigger than Garmin. Panasonic North America Chairman and CEO Tom Gephardt commented that the company is the number one global maker of in-car infotainment systems. That could be great distribution for Alexa in the automotive market.
But, Amazon won’t have Panasonic all to itself. The company also showed Google Assistant integration with the infotainment system though Android Auto toward the end of the presentation. Finally, the Amazon smile under the word “auto” in the video was not referenced specifically, but looks like it may be a new official product line for the company. Will report more as that story develops.
Note: This article was updated at 8:35pm EST to incorporate official confirmation from Amazon about the new Onboard features.