Amazon Launches Alexa Custom Assistant so Automotive Brands Can Build Their Own Voice Assistants

Amazon announced it’s opening up its Alexa voice assistant so automakers can create custom voice assistants using its artificial intelligence (AI) platform. The first automaker to take Amazon up on its offer? Stellantis, or FCA for those who haven’t quite caught themselves up on last week’s news. Turns out Stellantis has already begun planning to integrate the Alexa Custom Assistant in its future models too.

Amazon Alexa logo
Amazon Alexa logo | Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

What is Amazon’s Alexa Custom Assistant?

Amazon’s AI-powered assistant is fairly well-established. But if you don’t know what Alexa is, it’s an AI voice-assistant that serves as an at-home helper. You can ask Alexa to do things like play your favorite song, read-off the morning’s headlines, or even tell you a joke. Though, fair warning, Alexa’s jokes are pretty terrible. Someone needs to up that girl’s comedy game. Anyway.

Now, in a first for the company, Amazon is giving third-party companies access to Alexa’s core underpinnings via Alexa Custom Assistant. Amazon says that this type of access will allow automotive companies specifically to create custom voices and capabilities that will “co-exist” with Alexa. What this really means is that automotive companies can have Alexa’s software built directly into their cars.

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Why Amazon’s Alexa Custom Assistant is such a big deal for automakers

Building an AI-assistant is no easy task. It’s complex, time-consuming, and it can cost a pretty good chunk of change. According to Amazon, “The Alexa Custom Assistant addresses this challenge by allowing companies to leverage Alexa’s world-class technology stack to create their own intelligent assistant without the investment, long development cycles, and resources to build it from scratch and maintain over time.”

By reducing the burden of building an intelligent assistant, Amazon says that companies can instead focus their time and resources on creating unique capabilities to “delight their customers.” And, according to Stellantis, that’s exactly what it plans to do.

“Our customers expect to easily connect with their digital lifestyles wherever they go and today we responded with plans to offer new intelligent experiences built on Alexa’s world-class voice AI technology,” explained Mark Stewart, Chief Operating Officer, FCA – North America. “We look forward to the expanding partnership with Amazon and the integration of Alexa Custom Assistant within our powerful Uconnect system, as we continue on our path to put customer needs and expectations at the center of everything we do.”

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But don’t some vehicles already have Alexa?

Kind of. According to Amazon, there are several vehicles already on the market today that offer Alexa Built-in. Amazon also offers several devices that allow car owners to add Alexa to their vehicle after they’ve purchased it. So what makes Alexa Custom Assistant different? It’s all in the details.

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With Alexa Custom Assistant, automakers will be able to create their own in-car voice assistants. So instead of referring to your car’s voice assistant as Alexa, you could instead call it Jeep or Dodge. Or, really anything else that Stellantis might dream up. 

Unfortunately, Stellantis hasn’t specified a launch date for Alexa Custom Assistant. Instead, Stellantis says that the tech will be built into its Uconnect infotainment system, where it will employ two assistants side by side. Stellantis added that the first assistant will “act as the product specialist with features and capabilities specific to the vehicle,” which leaves Alexa to handle its usual tasks of answering questions about the weather forecast, playing your favorite playlist even controlling smart-home features.