DETROIT -- General Motors on Wednesday said it will offer built-in Amazon Alexa Auto integration through the infotainment systems of its new vehicles starting early next year. Owners of 2018 and 2019 models will be able to get the voice-controlled virtual assistant added to their vehicle though an over-the-air update, GM and Amazon said.
Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC customers will be able to link their Amazon Alexa account to the vehicle and access it via the voice command button on the steering wheel or through an icon on the touch screen. Vehicles must be from 2018 or newer and have a compatible infotainment system.
Alexa powers Amazon devices such as the Echo and Echo Show. It plays music, provides real-time information, serves as a home automation system and more.
GM owners will be able to access standard Alexa capabilities, and GM eventually can create custom skills relevant to the customer's vehicle, GM and Amazon said in a statement.
"We are reacting to customer insights directly from our studies," Santiago Chamorro, GM's vice president of global connected services, told Automotive News. "What they are telling us very clearly is that they have voice assistants that they love and use at home, and they want to carry them into the vehicle."
Some in-vehicle technologies have failed to impress consumers. A 2018 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that infotainment systems developed by tech companies are less distracting than many vehicles' built-in infotainment systems.
The partnership is the broadest rollout of an embedded Alexa Auto experience, GM and Amazon said. Some automakers, including BMW, Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., connect with Alexa via an iOS or Android app rather than the infotainment system.
Last year, Amazon released the Alexa Auto Software Development Kit, which gave automakers and suppliers a way to integrate Alexa's core functions into in-vehicle infotainment systems. GM is the first to install Alexa in its vehicles through the kit, an Amazon spokesman said.
The GM integration relies on onboard connectivity, so Alexa is fully integrated without an outside app, the spokesman said. GM owners who have a data plan and an Alexa account will be able to scan a code to link their accounts with their vehicles.
GM owners can use Alexa for basics such as checking the news or adding items to their Amazon shopping carts. They also can control smart devices at home, such as lights or a thermostat, or navigate to an address or point of interest, such as a nearby dealership or coffee shop. Alexa integrates with the vehicle's embedded navigation system or OnStar's turn-by-turn navigation system.
Drivers also can make phone calls through Alexa and play music, podcasts or audiobooks.
The integration is the latest phase of GM and Amazon's partnership. In 2018, GM launched in-car delivery with Key by Amazon and a series of connected-car skills for Alexa.
Connected-car skills included in-home commands for the vehicle. For example, a GM owner could start the car and start defrosting the windshield on a winter morning. With in-vehicle integration, the scenario is flipped; drivers can access their home thermostat from the vehicle.