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The future of connected cars: Testing the Alexa connected car

We got our hands on an Alexa-enabled Jaguar I-Pace to see how well the car would interact with our connected home.

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Paul Maric
Paul Maric
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The connected car has been evolving over time. It started with basic things like GPS and traffic overlays, and has since evolved to remote connectivity with the car.

But what’s the next step? How can the car interact with your home and close the gap between what you do out and the road and how it interacts with your home?

When Jaguar let us know Alexa was going to be integrated into products with Pivi Pro as a software update, we wanted to test it out with the 2022 Jaguar I-Pace.

The difference between native Alexa integration within the operating system and something like Apple HomeKit or the Android equivalent is the latter two options rely on a device connected to the car through CarPlay or Android Auto for operation.

The extent to which I’ve played with a home-connected car was with HomeLink, which we installed on our Model 3.

It’s designed to store the location of your electric garage door and then pulse on arrival to open it. It’s great in theory, but it only works on some doors and won’t work on centrally-authenticated garage doors like those you’ll find in some apartment buildings.

We set up a pair of Amazon Echos, a set of Lenovo Smart Bulbs, and a Sensibo air conditioning controller to see how it works.

Jaguar Land Rover says from the 2023 model year an online data pack will be included standard across the Jaguar, Range Rover, and Land Rover line-ups. Previously, customers had to purchase a data SIM to take advantage of any connected features.

Any customer with Pivi Pro will receive a prompt for a software update, and once it’s complete Alexa is ready to roll.

Once you add the vehicle to your Alexa account, it can directly interact with any devices you have on that account. Whether these devices are inside your home or remotely controlled lights, speaking to the car is just like speaking to an Alexa product at home.

From over 100km away, I was able to speak with Alexa using a button on the steering wheel and instruct it to switch the remotely-controlled bulbs at home, set my home air conditioner to 22 degrees, and play music.

How well does it work? For the most part it works well, but we found on a few occasions Alexa didn’t understand what we were asking.

You have to be quite precise with your requests, otherwise they don’t work. The other hard part is that when you direct a command to Alexa and you’re at home, you can see a response to the command. You don’t know whether a particular prompt has worked until you arrive home to see the results if you’re making commands remotely.

One of the benefits of remote over-the-air software updates is the addition of features over time with a car. Tesla pioneered this technology, and has delivered a suite of new features to the huge fleet of vehicles it’s already delivered to customers.

According to a Jaguar spokesperson, this latest rollout will hit hundreds of thousands of customers globally and is part of a broader technology suite the company is working on.

“The software-over-the-air capability that’s an integral part of the system ensures that it’s always up to date and improves over time. This capability enables us to offer Alexa to more than 200,000 existing customers worldwide (7400 in Australia) via a SOTA update,” the spokesperson said.

“Customers worldwide interact with Alexa billions of times each week. The Alexa experience is one that customers know and love, and so with Alexa integrated into our Pivi Pro infotainment system we’re enabling our customers to connect their Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles to their digital worlds. This makes life easier and enhances the driving experience.”

While the home connectivity stuff was handy, one feature I found useful was being able to listen to my flash news briefing in the car. Each morning I ask Alexa to read the news bulletins from Australia, and around the world.

If I don’t have time to do that before driving to work, I can transfer that request to the car.

It does drop the ball in some places, though. It sometimes wouldn’t answer questions – or you had to be very, very specific with a phrase for Alexa to search correctly. But I’m sure that’s stuff that will improve over time.

We’re keen to play with more of this technology as other brands roll it out. Over-the-air software updates are one of the things I love most about our Tesla.

Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess spoke about it being a key part of the Volkswagen Group’s future vehicle strategy, and something it’s currently focusing on in a recent podcast interview. Expect plenty of mainstream brands to follow suit.

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Paul Maric
Paul Maric

Paul Maric is an Australian car expert & automotive journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Paul is co-founder of CarExpert.com.au & formerly part of the CarAdvice founding team.

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