Adding Alexa to your car with Echo Auto (and Alternatives)
Alexa is going mobile. It is no longer a home assistant but an on the go assistant as well. Amazon has added a dedicated Echo for your car, allowing you to access Alexa on the way to work or wherever you may be going.
Amazons latest Echo, the Echo Auto, brings Alexa into your car. Having access to Alexa while driving is a huge benefit as it removes the need to actually physically interact with your phone while driving.
If you really think about it, your car is the best best place to add some smart technology and voice assistants. Using your phone just isn’t safe while driving. We are all guilty of this but there are safer options and the Echo Auto is one of them.
Ask Alexa to play your favorite podcast or jump back into that audiobook. have her check your calendar or reply to text messages while you worry about driving.
Need to add something to your to-do list, have Alexa do it for you. Set reminders and ask her for directions. You can even play games like the ever-popular Jeopardy or 20 Questions.
If you are the type of person who uses Alexa’s voice control features daily at home, adding it to your car seems like a no brainer. The voice control seems perfect for cars, right?
The device works with third-party apps like Google Maps and music options like Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, and NPR. But several apps are “coming soon,” like Apple Maps and Apple Music
And yes, it will also interface with Waze!!
Echo Auto is also location-aware, meaning it can and will be able to set off location-based routines. Set up a routine to turn all the lights on when you get home or open the garage door if you have a smart
The Echo Auto adds another layer of smart home automation to your home. Yes, you can still manage your Amazon compatible devices from the app, but it is way cooler to tell Amazon to turn off the lights in the house… from your car.
Installation is a breeze with the Echo Auto. It does not require any wiring and connects directly into your Bluetooth.
- You will need to plug the echo into a power source. It comes with a micro-USB cable as well as an in-car power adapter. The Echo Auto also comes with a dashboard mount to secure it safely on the dashboard of your car. It does not have a built-in battery so it will need to remain plugged in. I believe the battery was by design since it will be subject to some brutal heat at times. A battery just would not fare well in those conditions.
- You will need to set up the Echo Auto with the Amazon app. Amazon makes it very easy and it will not take long at all. If you have ever set up an Echo Dot or Echo Plus, the process is not far off from that.
- You have officially set up your new mobile companion, Alexa. You will need to log in to your music streaming accounts to access them. If you are like me and forget your passwords every other day, this will be a pain. But you got this! And it will be worth it!
Now that it is installed and ready to go you are all set. It does not require to be manually powered on as it activates on its own when the car is turned on.
It can be plugged in through the 3.5mm auxiliary jack or it through Bluetooth via your phone allowing Alexa to flow from your speakers on command. The actual device is pretty small, around the size of a wallet but packs in 8 speakers to hear you through the road noise and over the music.
Just like that, Alexa is riding shotgun.
The Echo Auto will require an internet connection. If your car is fancy and comes with Wi-Fi built-in, you will be covered. Most of us are not driving cars that advance so the Echo Auto will most likely be pulling from your phone.
This might be a problem for those of you without unlimited data plans.
Optimization for cars
This thing has been slimmed down specifically for automobiles. It has two buttons, one to mute the speaker and the other is more like a reset button. It does not have the volume controls like the Echo Dot as you will be controlling that from your radio.
As I stated earlier, the Echo Auto has 8 microphones so it can hear your through road noise or over music.
Another handy feature with the Echo Auto is the directions feature. If you ask Alexa for directions to the nearest pizza shop, Google maps will pop up on your phone by default.
You can choose a different map application like Waze to be the default mapping app when setting up the Echo Auto. The Echo does not relay the directions but instead lets Waze or Google Maps direct you in their native app.
Instead of having to type in directions on your phone or navigation system, you can ask Alexa and have it pulled up directly to your phone. Pretty legit!
What Can Alexa do for you in the car?
With Alexa in the car, you will be able to handle a few different things hands-free, including:
- Send Messages, via Alexa messages or through your service provider
- Check your calendar
- Add to your to-do list
- Get the weather
- Check traffic
- Find nearby businesses
- Control your smart home devices – check to see if the front door is locked etc.
- Play music, Audible audiobooks, podcasts
- Set location based routines
- Drop into other Amazon devices
The Echo Auto is also fully optimized for the car. When you are on the road, there are certain things that need to be factored in for the best experience. Road noise is huge and the 8 microphones are noise cancelling that make it much more suitable and better than other third party devices.
Over 1.6 million car crashes each year are due to distracted driving. 1 out of every 4 car accidents in America was due to texting and driving. Echo Auto, or any voice assistant in the car, help reduce distracted driving keeping you and everyone else on the road safe.
Location Based Routines and Reminders
The Echo Auto is location-aware meaning it can set off location-based routines. Let’s say you have a routine to shut off all the lights in your home when you pull out of your driveway. Echo Auto will know you are driving away and make sure all of the lights are off in the house.
You can set it up to lower the temperature in the home when you are on the way to work. If you are not using a learning thermostat, this could really help lower your energy bills.
If you have a smart garage door, you can have it open automatically when you are pulling up. If you do not have the routines set up, you can still ask Alexa to open the garage door when you are pulling up.
With the location based reminders, you can have Alexa remind you anything when you are in a certain location. Lets say you are on the way to the grocery store. Have Alexa remind you to pick up milk. These are set up through the Alexa app.
Garmin and Alexa – The Garmin Speak
Garmin and Amazon came together for a collaboration and put out the Garmin Speak. You have to wonder how they are feeling about the Echo Auto as it basically cuts them out of the equation.
Nonetheless, if you are looking for an Echo Auto alternative, the Garmin Speak is definitely something you will want to check out.
It is meant to attach directly to the windshield with some sticky adhesive and is unobtrusive at it is pretty small in size. It has a speaker on the back of the device and it can also connect to your car speakers through Bluetooth. You can also use an aux cable to wire the Garmin Speak to your car speakers.
It comes with two buttons, one to mute the device and the other to activate Alexa. The circular screen displays mini directions when you are in route to your location.
It has an OLED display that is aesthetically pleasing. It does look pretty slick.
To power the unit, it has a very long Micro-USB auto that you can wrap around your car interior to kind of hide it or you can just let it dangle. That’s all up to you.
This device is also compatible with Pandora, iHeart Radio, Nest, Amazon Music, Audible, TED (the talks) and for some reason Capital One. Still not sure what the benefit of that one is yet.
You will need to download the Garmin app to get the device set up. It is pretty straight forward and walks you through the whole process. The Garmin Speak will rely on your phone for internet access. It will ask you if you can play music in your car from Bluetooth and a few other questions to determine the best way to communicate.
There have been some shortcomings with the Garmin Speak. It has connectivity issues. If you have less than 3 bars of service on your phone, some people have reported connectivity issues. The ring around the screen turns red and you are basically locked out. It doesn’t seem to happen to everybody but was mentioned by a few in some other blogs and YoutTube videos.
Another issue is the delay in Alexa. When prompted, it has been noted that she might take a few more seconds to respond. First world problems, right?
Is the Garmin Speak Worth It?
If you do not have a navigation system, or a car GPS or just hate using your phone to navigate then it might be a good fit for you. It does look cool and it does bring Alexa to your car.
But for most of us, I just do not see it being the best fit. Let’s be honest, we all have a smartphone of some sort with Google or Apple maps. If you want to add Alexa to your car, the Echo Auto still comes out on top in my opinion.
The price at the time of writing was right around $60, down from around $100.
And now that Amazon has there own way into our cars, how much support are the going to b sending Garmins way? If I had to guess, I would say the Garmin Speak might be on its way out the door. I could be wrong though but we will see.
Garmin also offers a version of the Garmin Speak with a dash cam built in. This version comes with and without the Alexa capabilities. It also has forward collision and lane assist functionality. This does kind of change the conversation a bit and if you plan on adding or want to replace your dashboard camera, this is one variation you might want to check out.
This one is a little bit more on the expensive side. At the time of writing it was about $170. You can check the price on Amazon here.
I am the type that likes to keep the distractions while driving to a minimum and having Alexa, directions and a dashboard camera all in one does seem to be semi-valuable. If you plan on going the Garmin route, get the one with the camera. Add that layer of protection to your daily commutes.
The Echo Input is basically an Echo Dot with no speaker. These are primarily used with external speakers that you want to add Alexa to. I have a soundbar that is not smart but if I wanted to add Alexa to it, I could grab an Echo Input and just like that, the sound bar now has Alexa.
I have seen a lot of people adding these Echo Inputs to their car to bring Alexa with them on the road. It works for sure, but does it work well? The answer is no, especially when you compare it to the Echo Auto.
The Input would require some mounting as it does not have a dashboard mount and would also require a micro-USB cable to plug in. Both of these come standard with the Echo Auto.
You will also be losing out on four microphones, making it that much more difficult for the Input to hear you over the road noise and music playing. You will lose out on the ability to use your voice to open maps on your phone, one of my favorite features of the Echo Auto.
The Echo Input is pretty inexpensive and they are great for what they are made for, adding Alexa to “dumb” speakers. I really can’t make a good case to why these should be used over the Echo Auto in the car though. The Auto was literally made for cars.
So the Echo Input will bring Alexa into your car, I just don’t recommend it.
I have also seen a lot of people adding Echo Dots to their car to get Alexa. Being as this is basically the same device as the Input but with a speaker, I really cannot recommend this choice either.
You will need a USB port to power the Echo Dot but it will turn automatically with the car. You will also need to connect the Dot to your phones hot spot and then connect it to your cars wi-fi to get the sound from your speakers.
As this is not the most efficient way of getting Alexa into your car, you may want to test it out first. It can work for some but I just see it being a hassle for most.
The microphones are designed for in-home use, where it is nowhere near as loud. I grabbed one of my Echo Dots and through it in my car for a few days and it did struggle to pick up on what I was saying.
Echo Dots are great and function perfectly at home, where they were designed to be used. Let’s do ourselves a favor and keep them there.
Cars with Built-in Assistants
With most new cars offering some option of Apple Play, Google or Alexa integration the Echo Auto would be redundant. Why add something if you already have that functionality built in.
At the moment, Toyota, BMW, Ford and Audi offer Alexa integration. Not all of them are adding them to every model though.
BMW and Mercedes-Benz are in the process of developing there own AI, trying to reclaim their own infotainment systems. This gets interesting as it should really be able to control every aspect of the car. But I don’t have Mercedes or BMW money at the moment, do you?
Google Auto is offered in a laundry list of car makers including:
- and many more
Apple Play is offered in another lengthy list of car makers including:
- Aston Martin
- and many more
Amazon has some catching up to do. With so many car makers giving up space in their infotainment systems to the other two big players in the voice assistant game, the Echo Auto is their chance.
Moving forward, As Amazon continues to take over the world and every aspect of our lives, I do see that gap closing. With Amazon offering the most compatibility within our smart homes, it is only a matter of time before the same is true of our vehicles.
I am completely ok with that too. I do use my Alexa to control my home devices way more than my Google Home.
Now, we all can’t afford the newest car with all of the bells and whistles. Heck, I drive a pretty decent car but it is from 2015 and I have neither Apple Play or Google Play built-in. As much as I pay a month, I sure think I should.
2015 is the year manufacturers started adding these a factory installed feature. I must have just missed out.
Is adding the voice assistant of your choice enough to upgrade? Maybe. You just have to wait a bit to get that shiny new car with Alexa built-in.
Other Options to adding Alexa to your car
Roav VIVA by Anker
This Roav VIVA plugs into your cigarette lighter outlet and also has two USB ports built in. That is a pretty big feature if you don’t already have them built in your car.
It does rely on your smartphone for internet connection and your phone will need to be connected to your car audio system. It will not control any of your cars other features, but I wouldn’t expect a third party add ons like this to be able to.
It is a little touchy when requesting directions and I have read that a lot of users just give up on it and just input the directions manually. It also does not come with Spotify support. This fact alone would turn me away as I am an avid Spotify listener.
The Amazon listing shows a list of model cars that do not work well with Riva. Check that out here. If your car is on that list, run away.
It is basically Alexa light and we don’t need that in our lives now, do we? It is hard to recommend this product as in most cases, it will probably be rarely used. Well, the USB ports maybe but you can get that for much cheaper. The Roav VIVA will set you back between $50 and $75, depending on the version or extras you go with.
The Muse Auto is very similar to every other option listed in this post. This one is most comparable to the Echo Auto. It comes with a sticky plate that it stuck on your dashboard and the actual device is attached by a magnet.
You will still need the companion app and you will still rely on your smartphone to stay connected. This one IS compatible with Spotify so it is already better than the Viva in my opinion.
Install is quick and easy and finding somewhere to place the unit is a breeze. It is small enough that at it can be placed anywhere and the cord is 6 feet long.
The downfall with this device is the connectivity and app issues. I have seen a few people complaining that the app drains their battery. This could be on them though and nothing to do with the actual device itself.
Others have noted that it is not always accurate and may not be able to understand what you are saying. I tend to mumble but my Alexa Dot is really good at picking up what I am saying.
It does give you access to about 30,000 Alexa skills, much more than the VIVA. You can control your smart home as well. It is not a bad option at all and it will set you back about $50.
So, compared to every other option for adding Alexa to your car, this one comes in second. Flaws and all.
Is the Echo Auto Worth It?
When it comes down to adding Alexa to your vehicle, the best bet is going with Echo Auto or buying a car with Alexa integration built in. At the time of writing, it is available for around $25 on Amazon with plans of shooting up to the $50 price point.
When the price does eventually go up to $50, I still think it will be worth it.
This thing is built specifically for the car. It has the 8 microphones to hear you better. It has all the Alexa voice control functionality from making phone calls to playing music to checking your calendar. It can start your favorite map routing app through voice and send it right to your phone. It is just flat out better than the other options listed above.
When you add the routine based routines and reminders, it just make your smart home that much smarter.
If I had to guess, I would say that Amazon will be placing a lot of focus on the Echo Auto. It is their latest smart device and opens a whole new world of opportunity. With Google, Apple and Amazon battling it out for control over our smart homes, the next frontier is our cars.
Google and Apple have a decent head start there as they are being integrated into some cars native navigation and entertainment systems. In my mind, they are playing catch up and this gives them a means into not only newer cars but those older models too.
As this new tech evolves and they continue to innovate and refine, I only see the Echo Auto being more and more valuable.