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Amazon finds another way into the car dashboard with Echo Auto

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Amazon has released more Echo devices, including Echo Auto, providing the convenience of Alexa on the road and giving drivers of many vehicles another choice for voice-activated functions.

The aftermarket device, unveiled Thursday, is designed with an eight-microphone array and hands-free speech recognition technology, allowing Alexa to hear the driver’s voice over noise from traffic, air conditioning or music.

The device works in vehicles with and without a Bluetooth connection. Even without a Bluetooth connection, consumers can jam to their favorite playlist using an auxiliary cable or by buying an additional accessory such as FM transmitter or cassette tape adapter.

For connectivity and other features, drivers will need to download the free Alexa app onto their smartphones, which is available for carriers with Fire OS 3.0 or higher, Android 5.0 or higher and iOS 9.0 or higher.

Amazon has been aggressive in moving into automotive dashboards. Last month, it released an Alexa Auto Software Development Kit to make it easier for programmers to build Alexa into automotive infotainment systems.

Automakers including BMW, Ford Motor Co., Volkswagen’s Seat brand and Toyota Motor Corp. have begun working to integrate Alexa into their vehicles. Developers including Anker and Garmin have built aftermarket devices that bring Alexa into additional models. The kit — available on GitHub under the Apache License, Version 2.0 — will allow other automakers and suppliers to do the same.

“We’ve been making tremendous progress in the automotive space, working with automotive companies to build skills or directly integrate Alexa into new car models or accessories,” Amazon said in a statement. “We think people driving these cars want to use Alexa too, and that’s why we built Echo Auto.”

Alexa St. John contributed to this report.

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