Ford expands Alexa use, heating up auto personal assistant battle

Wed Jan 4, 2017 11:09pm EST
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By Alexandria Sage

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) is expanding the use of Inc's (AMZN.O: Quote) Alexa personal assistant in its vehicles to allow drivers to talk to their cars - demanding anything from a nearby cheeseburger to a weather forecast - marking a leap by the Detroit automaker to incorporate a technology initially targeted for home use.

The expanding alliance between Ford and Amazon, announced on Wednesday at the CES tech show in Las Vegas, underscores the importance to both automakers and internet commerce companies of connecting consumers on the move to a richer array of digital services.

Don Butler, Ford's executive director of connected vehicle and services, told Reuters the technology represented the "deepest integration of any OEM (carmaker) inside a vehicle with Alexa."

The two companies are talking about how to take the Alexa partnership further, according to Butler. "Digital assistant is one tool that is increasingly prevalent in the industry," he said.

Rival General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote) plans to roll out IBM's (IBM.N: Quote) Watson artificial intelligence software in its OnStar system early next year in order to market services to drivers in their cars.

Similarly, Daimler's (DAIGn.DE: Quote) Mercedes-Benz will use Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O: Quote) Google Assistant (GOOGL.O: Quote), a rival product, to let car owners interact with their vehicles from home via Google Home.

Ford's move follows its October announcement that it would use Alexa in three of its vehicle models by the end of 2016 to allow drivers to communicate with their smart home devices, such as heaters, lights or security systems.

Automotive personal assistants are being studied by every major automaker, according to Gartner research director Michael Ramsey, who said: "There's a lot of vetting going on."   Continued...

The Ford logo is seen in a rim of car in Cuautitlan Izcalli, Mexico January 4, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso