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Ford Expands the Functions of Amazon Alexa for its Vehicles With Enhanced ‘Car Control' Capabilities

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【Summary】Ford Motor Co announced a major upgrade of the built-in Amazon Alexa assistant that allows drivers to train it to perform vehicle functions based on their preferred phrasing words with new enhanced “Car Control” capabilities. With enhanced Car Control, customers can tailor the Alexa assistant to their natural way of speaking, as well as personalize it to understand everyday vocabulary.

Eric Walz    Apr 07, 2022 3:30 PM PT
Ford Expands the Functions of Amazon Alexa for its Vehicles With Enhanced ‘Car Control' Capabilities
With a new enhanced car control feature rolling out to Ford vehicles, customers can tailor Amazon’s Alexa assistant to their natural way of speaking, as well as personalize it to understand their everyday vocabulary.

The world's automakers are continuously adding new technology to their vehicles, including AI-powered voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Ford Motor Company for example, offers Alexa built-in, to control many of the vehicle functions using their voice. 

With the rise of AI-powered voice assistants, the car is the next space to leverage voice technology outside of the smart home or workplace setting. These smart technogies make for a safer driving experience, as drivers can keep their eyes on the road and not fumble with buttons or submenus in a vehicle's infotainment screen to control various functions, like adjusting the climate controls.

Now Ford has announced a major upgrade of the built-in Amazon Alexa, which allows drivers to train it to perform vehicle functions based on their preferred phrasing words with new enhanced "Car Control" capabilities that will be offered in upcoming Ford vehicles. 

With enhanced Car Control, customers can tailor Amazon's Alexa assistant to their natural way of speaking, as well as personalize it to understand everyday vocabulary. 

For example, if a Ford driver says, "Alexa, it's too hot'', the assistant will ask what action should be taken next, such as "I can lower the temperature by 5 degrees or turn on the AC. What should I do?" 

Ford customers can also teach Alexa personalized phrases to use with their familiar voice commands, such as, "Alexa, set the AC to full blast," or "Alexa, set the temperature to cozy." In this case, Alexa will recognize the supported voice command pattern and seek clarification from the customer to learn what "full blast" or "cozy" means to them specifically. Once a driver has made their choice, Alexa will recognize and remember it in the future.

"Ford pioneered SYNC in-vehicle voice technology, and Amazon's Alexa voice AI continues to advance the industry with more innovative, personalized experiences," said Yvonne Gloria, supervisor, Ford Core Speech Technology. "We are making it even easier for drivers to stay focused on driving by using more voice commands because you can now train your vehicle to do tasks based on your preferences and how you naturally speak."

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The technology being used by the Alexa voice assistant is known as "Natural Language Processing" (NLP). It's an emerging branch of computer science and AI that gives computers the ability to understand text and spoken words in the same way that people do.

These "smart learning" features are made possible by Alexa's teachable AI technology. Ford's rollout of the technology aims to be the auto industry's broadest rollout of the Alexa hands-free experience, the automaker says. 

As part of a broader rollout of the technology, Ford and Lincoln customers will get complimentary access to key Alexa features for up to three years. Future vehicles that offer Alexa built-in will include enhanced Car Control functionality when available, according to Ford.

The rollout of Alexa Car Control will begin with the 2022 F-150, Bronco, Mustang Mach-E, Edge, Expedition, Lincoln Nautilus and newly launched Lincoln Navigator. It will soon expand to the 2022 F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck

"We are always working to improve the in-cabin experience, and core to that is making it easier for customers to naturally interact with Alexa," said John Scumniotales, GM and director for Amazon Smart Vehicles. "The enhanced Car Control features offer customers a new level of personalization—and demonstrating this functionality with Ford is an important step toward our vision of conversations with Alexa feeling as familiar as speaking with a family member or friend sitting in the passenger seat."

Ford customers can also use Amazon's AI-powered voice assistant outside the vehicle. When combined with the optional FordPass and Alexa Skill, customers can control vehicle functions such as starting the engine, locking or unlocking doors, check an electric vehicle's remaining range or the tire pressure, right from the comfort of their home.

In addition to the new Car Control features, Ford or Lincoln customers can use Amazon's Alexa to listen to music, navigate to a destination, control smart home devices, add items to a shopping list, and more. Customers can interact with their vehicles using their voice by saying phrases such as, "Alexa, find the closest gas station", or "Alexa, play my road trip playlist" and the request will be performed without the driver having to take their eyes off the road.

Ford will demonstrate its new and improved voice control technology next week at the 2022 New York International Auto Show. The Alexa experience will also be demonstrated in a Ford Expedition during public show days, April 15-24, 2022.

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