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Growing up in Canada, my favorite time of year has always been when my family crammed into our paneled station wagon and went on an annual vacation trip to visit my grandparents in Virginia. Now that I’m the one driving the prospect of hitting the freeway is daunting, especially since I live in Los Angeles and have to deal with some of the worst traffic conditions in the country every time I get behind the wheel. .
Enter the Auto echo, which brings Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant technology to your car. This little device has become my must-have driving accessory for both long and short trips, and it’s currently 70% off – its lowest price ever – before Black Friday.
Setting up the Echo Auto is a snap. The device attaches to your car’s air vent using an included magnetic mount, which you’ll want to place far enough away so it won’t drop if you need to adjust something on your center console. Simply plug it into your car’s USB port or 12-volt power adapter, turn on your stereo and set the input mode to Bluetooth to pair it with your phone, open the Alexa app and follow the setup steps unique to add the device, and you have access to all of the same voice-activated capabilities you use with Echo speakers in your home.
With a simple “Alexa”, you can stream music through Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify and Pandora; listen to podcasts and audiobooks on Audible; or tune in to iHeartRadio, SiriusXM and other digital radio stations. You can also use Echo Auto to control smart products linked to your Echo at home and order groceries from Whole Foods, so you never have to go home to a dark house or an empty fridge again.
Even though I drive a car equipped with the latest technology, it’s much easier (not to say safer) to ask Alexa to perform a task rather than playing around with the digital display on my car’s console, especially when I have to keep my eyes on the busy road. Plus, the Echo Auto can do things my car can’t: On a trip across the country with my nephew last year, I brought my Echo Auto for the ride in our car from rental. I used it to set reminders for things I needed to do when I got back to work, check the status of an Amazon order, and even go to my calendar to confirm we had time to stop in Sedona. before I have to be back in LA to pick up my dog from the sitter.
With eight microphones configured around the body of the device, the Echo Auto can detect your voice over the sound of the car engine, music, air conditioning vents, and any ambient road noise. Much like other Echo devices, a light strip illuminates shades of blue to let you know when it’s listening and responding, or red when there’s a connection issue. Speaking of listening, the microphones can be turned off with the push of a button, so you don’t have to worry about recording your conversations… or the quarrels of the kids in the backseat.
The Driver Assistance Gadget uses third-party apps like Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze to help you navigate your trip, so Alexa can tell you how to get to the Grand Canyon and teach you all about it. while you are on the way there. The latest version of Echo Auto can even turn your phone into a ‘driver friendly display’ that includes touchscreen shortcuts for getting directions to your favorite locations, making calls or making announcements through devices. Alexa from your home.
Unfortunately, the Echo Auto can’t connect to your car’s Wi-Fi, so it often drops the connection to my phone when I’m driving in a remote area with poor cell coverage. It’s also important to note that the device accesses Amazon Cloud through your smartphone’s network connection, so if you don’t have unlimited data, you might want to keep your streaming activities to a minimum to avoid reaching the limit of your mobile Internet plan. And before you hit the Buy Now button, you’ll want to confirm that the Echo Auto is compatible with the Bluetooth technology and Air vents and that it will partner with your cellphone.