Alexa can do a lot more in your car with Echo Auto skills

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Amazon's Echo Auto brings Alexa into the car.
Amazon’s Echo Auto brings Alexa into the car.

Image: bridget bennett / mashable

Amazon’s Echo Auto just skilled up. 

Developers can now make skills just for the Auto, which works with your phone or with some in-car infotainment systems. What’s it for? It’s basically an Alexa digital assistant device made specifically for the car. 

Amazon announced on Wednesday the new customizable skill-making for the car, which it argues is different from developing skills for a living room or kitchen space. Car skills will determine how each is designed and works, whether it’s a game or a news-reading app. 

Amazon doled out advice for those looking to create skills for the car, such as keeping responses quick, considering synchronization with Alexa outside the car or when first coming into the car from elsewhere, location awareness, and using voice only. 

Amazon released a developer guide, “Best Practices for Designing Alexa Skills for Automotive,” going deeper into skill design for drivers, passengers, and driving instead of the typical Alexa user in a house.  

Designing a skill for a car-only use-case is similar to a new trivia app made for commuters called Drivetime. It uses the same design principles to make it car-friendly, with long pauses, extended time for spoken answers, and a truly hands-free experience. Alexa developers are advised to limit any interactions with the Alexa app and Auto device — the Auto skills can’t be distracting because the user is behind the wheel.

The Echo Auto remains a fairly elusive car gadget — you can only get it through a waitlist-request system on Amazon. People are starting to wonder where it is. Today’s announcement about car-specific skills seems like a good sign that a wider rollout is coming soon.

It’s listed at 50 percent off and only $24.99 for now, but once it’s more widely available, it’s supposed to bump up to $50. The Echo Auto is also still lagging behind on its compatibility with other apps like Apple Maps and Waze, which the website still says will be “available later this year.” Apple Music is still “coming soon.”

As long as it works in the car, people are eager to get their hands on the newest Alexa device.

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