Some Ford owners will no longer need a key to unlock and start their car.
The company announced Wednesday at CES 2017 its newer vehicles will work alongside Amazon’s popular Echo smart speaker and its voice assistant Alexa.
The move will allow select Ford owners to make voice requests via the Echo such as “Alexa, ask MyFord Mobile to start my car,” provided they’re within earshot of the smart home device.
Other capabilities include the ability to turn off the car, lock or unlock the doors and check a vehicle’s battery power level. The technology could also be useful for those who want to loan a car to a friend without handing over a key. A car owner could ask its Echo to unlock and start the car, even if its miles away.
The partnership will come this month to three existing electric Fords — the Fusion Electric, Fusion Energi and C-MAX Energi — as a free upgrade to its built-in Sync 3 tech platform. Ford will roll it out the upgrade to more vehicles later in the year.
Eventually, Ford drivers will be able to make Alexa requests from directly within the car. For example, a driver could ask the technology to play an audiobook or turn off their smart lights at home.
In addition to an Amazon Echo, eligible Ford owners will have to pair an Android device to Amazon’s Alexa app. Meanwhile, iOS users are required to connect to the car with a physical cord. Drivers can tap the existing voice recognition button on their steering wheel to speak to Alexa.
By embracing voice commands, Ford intends to make it easier for drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. The effort comes as motor vehicle fatalities spiked in 2015. Experts believe distracted driving is a key contributing factor.
“We don’t want consumers picking up their smartphone and texting inside the vehicles. Absolutely not,” said Don Butler, executive director of Ford Connected Vehicle and Services. “We [also] don’t want them picking their smartphone up and ordering for a restaurant. If we can do it by voice, we think it’s better, safer and simpler.”