Amazon’s Alexa has been around for three years, but you can count on one hand the number of cars that have integrated the voice-controlled technology. The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi is the only car on the market right now with Alexa, although BMW says some of its models, including select Minis, will feature the voice assistant starting in mid-2018. Nissan is working on bringing Alexa into its cars as well. But until then, we’ll have to make do with the third-party gadgets to talk to Alexa in our cars.
Speak Music, a San Jose-based startup behind the voice-controlled Melody app, announced a new device that allows drivers to access their music and navigation functions using Alexa. Muse is the “first pure Amazon Alexa-enabled device for your car,” the company said. And at $49.99, it’s noticeably cheaper than other Alexa-powered third-party devices.
As you can see, Muse is a small, Bluetooth-enabled device that attaches to your center console like an air freshener. All you need is an iPhone or Android device with a data plan, as well as an audio input if you don’t plan on using Bluetooth to connect Muse to your car. Just use the Muse app on your phone to pair the device with your Amazon Alexa account. Then you can start barking orders to your car, all while keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.
You can use Muse to play music, podcasts, check stock quotes, or get directions — basically anything you use Alexa for in your home. Unlike some other Alexa-powered devices, Speak Music says that Muse supports hands-free calling, which could be a huge advantage if it works. The device also allows you to interact with your Alexa-powered devices at home, giving you the power to open and close garage doors, turn on porch lights, or adjust your thermostat. Muse doesn’t support Spotify, but a spokesperson said it’s in the works.
Many automakers are starting to experiment with voice-activated features, but the results so far have been mixed. Speak Music has its own voice assistant Melody, but seems to recognize that Amazon has a clear advantage with the success of its Echo smart home speakers.
It will be a challenge for Speak Music to find ways to keep Muse relevant as more car companies seek to integrate Alexa into their vehicle fleets. But for now, the company can say it offers the ability to do something that very few automakers have been able to do: make a dumb car smarter.