Amazon signals big ambitions for automobiles with expanded presence at CES

Amazon Automotive exhibit at CES 2020. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

LAS VEGAS — Amazon’s consumer electronics ambitions have grown over the years at CES, the giant consumer technology show in Las Vegas, but this year the Seattle company reached new heights.

Amazon’s splashy booth for car-related technology in particular caught our attention, signaling its push into the automotive space.

Smack dab in the middle of concept cars and flying taxi exhibits, crowds thronged Amazon’s booth where the company was touting home-to-car integrations with Alexa and Ring, in-car Alexa voice features, and with AWS services that can help automakers and car dealers bring more technology to the car purchase process.

“It really helps us engage with the automotive community, with our customers and our partners that want to show what they are doing,” said Dean Phillips, AWS Worldwide Tech Lead for Automotive.

Alexa-enabled automotive devices at CES 2020. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Amazon made a series of auto-related announcements this week.

  • Amazon is bringing its Fire TV media streaming devices to cars for the first time, via new partnerships with BMW and Fiat Chrysler Automotive. The move is part of a broader expansion of the Fire TV Edition program.
  • Echo Auto, a $50 device that connects to the Alexa smartphone app and plays through car speakers, will be released in India on Jan. 15, and launch in Europe in late February.
  • Later this year, drivers will be able to pay for gas at more than 11,500 Exxon and Mobil stations with an Amazon Alexa voice command.
  • Amazon Web Services is working with BlackBerry to build a cloud-powered connected vehicle software platform for in-vehicle applications. AWS is also working with Unity Technologies on a new cloud service to “test, train, and validate an autonomous perception system.”
  • Rivian, the Amazon-backed electric vehicle maker, will integrate Alexa into its first two all-electric vehicles: the R1S and R1T. The digital assistant will also be built into the fleet of 100,000 electric delivery vans Rivian is making for Amazon.
AWS autonomous vehicle solutions at CES 2020. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

One example of how the company was promoting AWS services in the automotive industry was from ZeroLight, an AWS partner who creates visualization platforms for car sales and marketing. ZeroLight’s technology use AWS services to generate real-time renderings of custom car configurations, enabling consumers to spin the car around, look inside, open the doors, and manipulate it. Those renderings can then be used to generate personalized display ads that are shown to consumers on the internet with exactly the configuration that they created.

Amazon also showcased what future car integrations might look like. A future mobility demo used the Alexa Auto SDK and AWS Machine Learning services to create an in-vehicle assistant. Driver profiles are stored in the cloud and Amazon Rekognition is used to load the driver profile via facial recognition. Machine learning is used to watch for repeated behaviors, like finding the nearest coffee shop each morning.

Amazon Auto future mobility experience at CES 2020 (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Amazon also couldn’t resist the lure of its new Alexa partnership with Lamborghini, showing off a bright orange Huracan Evo that can use voice commands to change the cabin temperature, tune radio stations or control the seat heaters.

Lamborghini Huracan Evo with Amazon Alexa
Lamborghini Huracan Evo with Amazon Alexa. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Amazon’s presence at CES went far beyond just cars. The company’s Ring arm had a booth touting home security products and its Alexa voice assistant was pretty much everywhere, both inside Amazon’s own devices and countless third-party products shown off at the show. Amazon also hosted an event with celebrity chef Guy Fieri and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal.

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