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Amazon’s Alexa Is Headed to You Car — but Is It a Security Risk?

Echo Auto allows users to use Alexa in their car

Amazon has become a pioneer in the world of innovative, functional technology. Millions of people use Amazon devices and Alexa capabilities. Now, the tech giant is working on integrating its ideas — and Alexa — into every car. While it seems inevitable that a fully Alexa-capable vehicle will be parked in driveways soon, will giving Alexa more access to our lives create greater risks to our security?

How Amazon plans to take over cars

After mastering smart gadgets and integrating Alexa into smart homes, Amazon now seems determined to infiltrate vehicles. The tech company believes the only way to fully integrate all Alexa features will involve fully-embedded automotive software systems. In fact, a specialized group has worked on this concept since around 2016.

The Amazon Alexa Automotive group focuses on working with automakers to offer full voice-assistance to vehicles. In fall 2018, Amazon debuted the Echo Auto. This installable device for cars provides Alexa/Amazon functions and connects to smart homes and other devices.

According to Digital Trends, Amazon Alexa Automotive Vice President Ned Curic said, “The real North Star for us is to be embedded with all the cars.” Though the Echo Auto is not ready to ship to everyone yet, a special invitation from Amazon allows some people to order it.

What Alexa will do for vehicles

Right now, Echo Auto can’t connect to everything in your smart home. But Amazon hopes to achieve this objective soon. They promise consumers full Alexa functionality, but right now, drivers can use Alexa with the Echo Auto device and a connected Alexa app on phones.

When first revealed, Echo Auto could do things like start your car and read fuel-levels. Already, Amazon has added features like running Alexa through sound systems, managing your electric vehicle’s charge, accessing compatible smart-home functions, playing music and audiobooks, checking the weather and news, opening garage doors, and getting directions.

According to Amazon, Echo Auto now gives owners access to Alexa’s library of more than 50,000 skills. And there’s only more planned for the future.

The first cars with Alexa technology

Though no particular automakers have agreed to partner for a full-integration project, Audi and BMW seem to be taking Amazon’s cue. They aren’t fully integrated with Alexa. But more than 15 automakers have already added Alexa skills to car infotainment/hardware systems.

The current Echo Auto uses the same eight-microphone setup as the Echo Show. Using your phone’s internet to connect via Bluetooth and the Alexa app, it deciphers voice requests over typical in-car noises. In the future, full integration would mean simply using your voice to make requests without a device or app.

Is it safe to have Alexa in your car?

Adding Amazon’s Alexa technology to cars has practicality. Curic told USA Today, “You want to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, so using your voice makes more sense.” But while safety and convenience are obvious perks, concerns about Amazon using customer data raise questions about the personal security of integrating Alexa into vehicles.

According to CNET, Amazon admits to keeping your data as long as it wants, unless “personally specified.” Third-party companies in agreement with Amazon store this data, too. But people concerned with security can review, delete, and change data within Amazon account settings.