Amazon and Garmin team up to bring Alexa into the car with $150 Speak device

The Alexa-powered Garmin Speak attaches to the windshield. (Garmin Photo)

Garmin this morning announced a new device powered by Amazon’s digital brain Alexa for cars that can play music, give directions, read off traffic updates and more.

The $149.99 Garmin Speak is the equivalent of an Echo Dot for the car. It mounts on the windshield and accesses data by syncing up with smartphones.

“Our vision is that the Alexa service will be everywhere our customers want it, including inside the car,” said Ned Curic, vice president of automotive at Amazon Alexa. “Alexa on the Garmin Speak can help customers with many things, like controlling their smart home from the road, getting news or traffic, listening to Audiobooks, adding items to a shopping list, and ordering dinner with just their voice.”

Smart speakers and smart home gadgets have been Alexa’s primary turf, but automobiles represent a natural place for the digital assistant to grow. With greater emphasis on distracted driving on the part of law enforcement, hands-free control of music and directions are becoming a must.

Amazon has been working on a variety of ways to get Alexa inside cars, but the Garmin Speak is among the least expensive and most convenient options yet. At the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in January Amazon and Ford began rolling out integrations with the digital assistant. Last month, Amazon announced Alexa will be available in BMW and MINI vehicles in the U.S., U.K. and Germany starting in mid-2018.

To satisfy Amazon’s goal of getting Alexa in as many places as possible, Amazon years ago opened the digital brain to developers and device makers. In August, Amazon added a new Device SDK to round out its Alexa Voice Service, which gives device makers access to hardware development kits, APIs and documents to integrate Alexa into their products.