In the quest to simplify your car, automakers are probably going to make life more annoying and difficult, at least for a while.
At CES in Las Vegas this month, four automakers announced they're inviting speech-activated virtual assistants -- Amazon's Alexa and Microsoft's Cortana -- to become your driving companion. One who might pester you to buy things, tell you you're driving the wrong way or remind you you've left your house unlocked.
Mark Boyadjis, an analyst at IHS Automotive, said virtual assistants are going to become a bigger part of our lives. But automakers should be careful about balancing the convenience the assistants bring with their potential distraction.
"The last thing you want is more distraction in your life," Boyadjis said, adding that automakers need to employ assistants "intelligently without being annoying."
At CES, in-car virtual assistants were the hot new thing. On Wednesday, Jan. 4, Ford Motor Co. announced it was the first to integrate Alexa into its vehicles. The next day, Volkswagen said it would be integrating Amazon's voice-operated virtual assistant into upcoming cars. At the Thursday keynote speech, Nissan Motor Co. said it would offer Microsoft's Cortana assistant in its vehicles. BMW demonstrated Cortana in its vehicles throughout the week.
Despite Ford's claim to be first, these announcements aren't entirely new. In October, BMW said it would enable the use of Alexa voice commands in current vehicles, and Hyundai announced a similar venture in November.
Though the exact features depend on which car you buy, in general, Amazon Alexa lets drivers play audiobooks, control the navigation and order items from Amazon. If drivers have an Amazon Echo speaker or similar devices in their homes, they can then unlock, lock and start their cars. With Microsoft Cortana, drivers can sync digital tasks usually stored on personal devices, such as appointments and to-do lists, with their vehicle.