Amazon’s Alexa Hits the Road With Hyundai

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Hyundai’s luxury car division, Genesis, said Thursday that its currently available G80 and soon-to-be-available G90 will be the first cars to allow owners to control a number of the car’s functions using Alexa, the voice recognition program from Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN).

To take advantage of the system, the car’s owner can issue commands to Amazon products like the Echo, Echo Dot and Tap that will then be transmitted to the car and executed. For example, an owner can say something like, “Alexa, tell Genesis to unlock my car,” and presto!

Best of all, according to a report at Automotive News, the Alexa-Genesis tie-in is free to use and Hyundai/Genesis will give car buyers a gift card for Amazon that can be used to purchase an Alexa-enabled device.

Other carmakers, including Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and BMW, have announced similar capabilities in their cars, but Hyundai is the first to deliver the goods.

What next? The Alexa-Genesis system is available beginning Thursday, but it is strictly a one-way system that requires an Amazon device that speaks Alexa to be in the car owner’s home. The obvious next step is allowing the car’s owner to talk to an Alexa-enabled device in the car to operate some functions in the house, like opening the garage door, turning on some lights or even pre-heating the oven. Seems reasonable to assume a person might someday do some shopping at Amazon while driving home.

Amazon and Hyundai both get first-mover advantage, here, but the deal is likely nonexclusive and that would mean that Amazon is free to license its Alexa technology to other carmakers. That’s a nice way to get into the connected car business without getting involved in the highly regulated self-driving technologies.

Alexa may never be able to drive the car, but that’s really up to the carmakers and not Amazon. For the e-commerce giant, getting its nose into the automakers tent may pay off handsomely down the road. And if not, it didn’t really cost the company much.