Automakers Are Going All In With Integrating Voice Assistants Into Vehicle Dashboards

Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana take over CES

While many say CES 2017 was somewhat of a lackluster year for any sort of major breakthrough in technology, one key theme has been the increasingly ubiquitous use of voice assistants for devices of all types. 

This week, a number of major tech brands announced that upcoming versions of their products will be equipped with Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Cortana. LG will soon have Alexa built into its refrigerator, GE is putting it into a lamp, and Huawei will install it into the future Mate 9 smartphone. (As The Verge notes, that will be the first time Alexa has been pre-installed into a smartphone.)

However, what's maybe more notable—and arguably far more exciting—than talking to a fridge is taking to a car. Several major automakers at CES unveiled plans to integrate either Alexa or Cortana into future versions of their vehicles over the coming year.

A few days before Nissan took the stage for its Thursday night keynote, the company tweeted a teaser that seemed to hint at a possible Cortana integration.

Sure enough, a few days later, it became a reality, as Nissan announced it will soon begin integrating Microsoft Cortana into the Nissan Leaf. By doing so, the voice assistant will be able to help drivers email on the road, reroute directions, ask about traffic, suggest playlists and receive reminders when a car needs service. It will also let someone—say, a family member at home—ask Alexa on another device when the person driving the car will be home. (During the demo, Cortana even asked if she should auto-park the car.) 

BMW made a similar move with Microsoft, announcing that its cars will have the assistant accessible through the vehicle's dashboard. The services seem to be comparable to those of Nissan, such as scheduling appointments, getting directions and placing restaurant reservations.

Two other major car makers, Ford and Volkswagen, are picking Amazon's Alexa as their voice assistant of choice. With Ford, Alexa will be able to control a driver's connected home, start the car, and resume audiobooks right where they left off.